Focus: Corporate Responsibility - 'Think medium' when seeking a corporate partner

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

Small and medium-sized enterprises can be the ideal partners for medium-sized charities, says the NCVO.

Medium-sized charities that find it difficult to attract corporate funding should target small to medium-sized enterprises, according to the NCVO.

Mubeen Bhutta, policy officer for the NCVO, said the cut-throat and fickle funding climate had left middle-income groups marooned. "With government funding to the sector increasingly coming through big public service delivery contracts and the sector's income concentrated in larger organisations, many medium-sized charities are finding it a tough funding environment," she said.

Bhutta added that the flexibility of smaller charities could bring quicker results when they worked with SMEs.

"Voluntary sector groups should consider partnership working with SMEs as well as larger companies," she said.

"In many cases, these organisations have more in common with each other - for example, a shared interest in thriving, vibrant communities - than with the national players."

Although big charity players tend to lasso glamorous household brand names, the potential of SMEs has yet to be maximised.

Joanna Hall, corporate development team leader at Action for Blind People, said that the fact her charity, with its £20m turnover, fell in the mid-range bracket meant it had to develop a unique selling point to attract corporate investors. "There is an untapped world of smaller companies and SMEs that are not conversant with the ways of corporate giving," said Hall. "Charities need to focus on making themselves known in the right circles.

"The big charities have obvious strengths and benefits to offer to companies," she added. "Smaller charities appeal to companies because they can demonstrate real value for money - a corporate supporter can have a massive impact on a charity with a turnover of only £500,000. For those charities in the middle, it's much more difficult to stand out from the crowd."

She said her vision for Action for Blind people was that it should be the first charity companies thought of when they wanted to partner with a sight-loss charity. "We don't need to be the biggest to be the charity of choice," she said.

Jo Swinhoe, fundraising director at the Alzheimer's Society, which is also targeting SMEs, said: "I don't think size does matter - it is about targeting the right companies in the right way at the right time. A charity's fundraising team must be flexible."

KEY POINTS

- The NCVO has said that medium-sized charities, which find it hard to get corporate funding, should target the SME sector

- Mubeen Bhutta, NCVO policy officer, said many medium-sized charities were finding it a tough funding environment because more government funding comes through big public service delivery contracts to the sector's larger organisations

- Both Action for Blind People and the Alzheimer's Society, among other mid-sized charities, have realised the benefits of pitching to smaller as well as to household-name companies

- The Alzheimer's Society says that "size doesn't matter" - it's about targeting.

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