A study into what motivates large companies to support voluntary organisations has confirmed what many fundraisers have long suspected. Big companies choose charity partners based on their commercial objectives, and philanthropy plays only a small role in their thinking.
The study by Karl Mitchell, director of fundraising at the Woodland Trust, was launched at the Institute of Fundraising's National Fundraisers' Convention in Birmingham last week. Mitchell asked the conference audience to consider "Are corporates using charities to make more money?"
He undertook the research as part of his three-year part-time masters degree at South Bank University in London. He conducted semi-structured interviews with a sample of 13 senior business executives from major blue-chip companies, as well as six charity representatives and four industry specialists.
The study found that companies benefit from the support they give to charity by increased brand awareness, as well as boosting their image and reputation. From further questioning, he realised that "corporates are seeking to become more sophisticated in measuring future partnerships.
Equally, he found that "companies are now proactively selecting their charity partners."
The lesson for corporate fundraisers is to raise their charity's profile among the corporate audience. "We want them knocking on our door,
said Mitchell. Charities should target companies having "a clear synergy with their cause, be it in the form of brand value, geography, culture or marketing objectives".