The value of purposeful partnerships

Third Sector Promotion GOOD Agency

A convergence of the commercial and charity sector means partnerships require reimagination, says GOOD Agency

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, GOOD has seen an accelerated convergence of interests between commercial and non-profit organisations. Increasingly, both recognise a greater need to align their efforts to help address social and environmental issues.

This shift is coming from both sides: from charities struggling to make an impact with less income, and from commercial businesses grappling with purpose and recovery – brought about by heightened pressure from employees and consumers. 

GOOD recently hosted an event on ‘ultimate purpose,’ with a focus on partnerships, inviting experts from The LEGO Group and the children’s charity Barnardo’s to share their views. 

Nilesha Chauvet, managing director of GOOD said: “The overwhelming consensus from our experts, is that both commercial brands and charities are extremely keen to find a way of working together but that these collaborations need to be re-imagined if mutual value required to sustain the approach is to be realised.” 

Social impact experts in attendance from LEGO were Sarah Macshane and David Pallash. Tara Honeywell, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Barnardo’s also joined the event.

Key Learnings:

Longer-term commitment

Many of the social and environmental issues we face require a longer-term approach to deliver real-world impact. Charities need to evolve their ways of working with commercial brands, moving away from transactional short-term relationships. 

LEGO’s David Pallash explained they plan their partnerships well in advance, and increasingly, they are looking for longer-term relationships.

This can be a challenge for charities experiencing resource strains. Tara Honeywell of Barnado’s understands this well. Moving away from transaction, towards more transformational partnerships can help to drive efficiency as well as increase effectiveness, however. 

The former is a ‘novelty cheque’ partnership. The latter is values-based; broader, deeper and richer. Fewer, bigger, better, longer-term relationships allow for better quality relationships that can provide value for both parties, year-on-year.

Understanding each other’s needs, better

Honesty and humility is necessary. Both parties need to understand where their respective strengths and limitations lie-– how they might benefit from working together. 

Sarah Macshane explained that LEGO have varying degrees of partners; some light-touch and self-sufficient. Others are significantly more hands-on, requiring co-creation and regular collaboration. 

Flexibility and open-mindedness when crafting an approach to collaborative working is becoming more important.

It is worth remembering that many brands collaborating with charities are doing so to demonstrate their commitment to purpose. Charity partnerships are just one of a number of activations that brands might consider as part of a broader purpose plan. Charities would do well to understand the wider organisational agenda of those businesses to ensure success in pitches.

Blended Metrics

Both parties need to align behind a very specific goal and agree key measures of success. 

LEGO and Barnardo’s recommend defining what success looks like upfront. Knowing what each party is trying to achieve and agreeing measures in advance enables objective evaluation of progress and safeguards accountability.

As co-creation becomes a more important feature of relationships, a move to blended metrics – focussed on the specific cause, is also recommended.

David Pallash of Lego stated that digital is making it easier to gather feedback and provide immediate results. A move to faster, real-time reporting is essential for organisations under pressure to tangibly demonstrate outcomes from investments.

The perfect partner

Finding the perfect partner can be a daunting prospect. Once you have identified one, Sarah Macshane recommends growing the relationship iteratively; piloting a programme and taking time to figure out how best to work together. 

Tara Honeywell encourages both charities and commercial brands to be bold and brave, ‘don’t be afraid to be ambitious about the change you can make. You are only limited by your own imagination. Together you can create more.’

GOOD is a purpose-driven agency, with 25 years of experience working with both charities and commercial clients. For more information on this session, or for help with you project, please contact GOOD at hello@goodagency.co.uk

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