Dan Parker: How to build and maintain a strong mission alliance

Running a campaign that involves more than 200 organisations brings valuable lessons on building and maintaining relationships

Dan Parker
Dan Parker

Veg Power is a not-for-profit focused on encouraging the UK to eat more vegetables. Since our inception around three years ago, our successes include our award-winning 'Eat Them to Defeat Them' campaign in partnership with ITV, which included a TV ad supported by over £10m of advertising from ITV, Channel 4 and Sky Media. 

This year the campaign’s accompanying schools programme reached 500,000 primary school kids from 1,900 schools. Thanks to retail sales data we were able to demonstrate behaviour change with an additional 517 million children’s vegetable portions sold from the campaign’s launch in February 2019 to July 2020. 

I believe the difference with other healthy eating or public health campaigns is that our operating model includes a strong, diverse and vocal alliance that has nationwide reach and impact – all on a very low budget. 

Our alliance consists of individuals, groups and organisations that are passionate about our cause. It includes large and small businesses, national and local government, NGOs, community groups and schools, celebrities and influencers. 

This enables us to reach a greater range of individuals and adds credibility and interest to our campaigns. 

With more than 200 organisations involved, there are many conflicting interests. It can be demanding and certainly needs careful management. But it has taught me a number of lessons about how to build and maintain these relationships. 

Building a strong alliance 

It goes without saying that the organisations likely to support you will need to be engaged and passionate about your cause. However, your cause needs to be a good fit for both the organisation and the individual who is championing you internally. 

Taking time to really understand your partners, their objectives, requirements and concerns to ensure you are the right fit will result in a relationship that is win for both. 

It’s also important to think about how you will benefit them, not how they will benefit you. In every pitch, presentation, email or call, remember that you need to convince your partner how you will deliver good value to them, not the other way round. 

Be prepared to remove reputational risk and reduce conflict. A number of conflicting interests exist within our alliance. For this reason, we focus solely on our mission of getting the UK to eat more veg. We have a ‘no voice policy’ on any other issue, which is understood by the alliance and keeps everyone happy. 

And remember that people want to be part of something good. Don’t be shy to share who is with you; it may encourage others to jump on board. 

Maintaining a strong alliance 

After building your alliances, here is my advice to help you maintain them.

First, communication is key – while a monthly or quarterly newsletter is a necessity as part of regular proactive comms, make them feel special by picking up the phone or meeting face-to-face as restrictions lift. 

Second, convey your momentum: ensure they are aware that you are moving forward, getting stronger and still worth being part of. 

Remember that everyone loves a spot of recognition. Tag your partners in social posts, include them in press releases, presentations and other external communications. Demonstrate that they are appreciated and valued. 

Prove that you are a trusted ambassador for their brand by following their branding with integrity and considering the impact of your actions. Your chair tweeting how much they love your partner’s competitor is not going to help.  

Keep evaluation at the heart of your work to allow you to demonstrate tangibly what their involvement means. Take stock of what “impact” means for the decision-makers – it can go beyond press coverage and social media to more hands-on involvement from them and their team.

Dan Parker is the chief executive of not-for-profit alliance Veg Power

Topics:
Management

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