Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Corporate relationships - 'Heart' awards honour old partners and court new

Mathew Little, mathew.little@haynet.com

British Heart Foundation sponsors attended the charity's first prize ceremony for corporate partners.

The British Heart Foundation hosted its first ever awards ceremony for corporate partners last week.

The charity says the Heart of Business Awards offered a good opportunity to thank existing partners and cultivate new contacts among leading companies.

About 50 representatives from the foundation's 37 existing corporate supporters attended the event last Tuesday. Costs were covered by the event sponsor, MBNA, and the Football Association allowed the charity to use its Soho Square headquarters for free.

Nestle's Shredded Wheat won the 'greatest achievement in building a successful long-term partnership' accolade, and WeightWatchers was recognised for 'pioneering support in reaching new audiences'. Other winners included Deloitte and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

However, about 20 companies that do not have fundraising partnerships with the BHF also attended. Douglas Rouse, head of corporate partnerships at the charity, said the event was an important way of nurturing new deals.

"We wanted to thank some key partners, but also use it as a cultivation event," he said. "Where you are really going to win is by creating a distinct environment in which potential supporters can mingle with existing supporters and openly hear from them about the relationship and how well it works."

Rouse said the event reflected the foundation's proactive approach to finding corporate partners. "We have become very focused on approaching people who we can form mutually beneficial partnerships with," he said.

Rouse claimed that companies improve both staff retention and productivity by encouraging healthy lifestyles at work. But he stressed that all partnerships were strictly about fundraising.

"Each and every one of our partnerships is a fundraising partnership," he said. "You will never see any comments from us about products or services. We have very strict principles of cause-related marketing written into contracts. It's very strictly about fundraising."

The next awards will be held in 2008. Rouse said this reflected the fact that companies were more interested in long-term relationships than traditional charity of the year partnerships.

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