When Central England Co-operative first chose Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children as its corporate partner in 2012, the organisations expected the partnership to last for two years. But it went on to last for five years, raising more than £1.5m to provide specialist equipment to disabled and terminally ill children.
Sarah Ashton, PR manager at Central England Co-operative, says the company first selected Newlife through a staff vote from a shortlist of organisations that applied to be partners.
She says Central England Co-operative, which with more than 8,000 staff across more than 400 trading outlets is one of the largest independent retail cooperative societies in the UK, was keen to find a partner that would be able to use the funds raised to support local beneficiaries.
"If store colleagues, customers and members raise money through an event, we want to know that it will help people in that community," she says. "That was one of our key criteria."
Ashton says Newlife was a very active partner, attending meetings of the Co-op’s members across all of the 16 counties in which the company operates. "Each time they turned up to a meeting, that reinvigorated the fundraisers," she says.
The majority of the fundraising was carried out by employees through activities ranging from in-store cake sales and raffles to challenge events such as skydives or running the London Marathon. The partnership, which ended last year but announced its final total only in April, was extended because it was working well, according to Ashton.
"Really early on in our fundraising partnership, it was clear that working with the charity was having a positive impact on our colleague engagement, our customers and the wider community," she says. "Working with a charity for so many years in succession was unprecedented for Central England Co-operative, and the level of colleague engagement was remarkable throughout, from board level right the way to the shop floor."
Although Central England Co-operative has selected Dementia UK as its new charity partner, the company remains in contact with Newlife and bought some winter coats over the Christmas period from the charity’s clothes recycling operation to pass on to homeless people. The two organisations remain in discussions over how they might build on this activity over the coming year, a Newlife spokeswoman says.