If you ask successful business owners about their regrets, one thing they will often say is that they wish they had more opportunity to give back to people. Indeed, this feeling can be so strong that it inspires them to work in the charity sector after retirement – but what if you could run your business and help a charity at the same time? Increasingly, businesses are partnering with charities in mutually beneficial arrangements that give the businesses good publicity and help the charities to improve what they can do. Could your business be part of something like this?
The simplest way to set up a partnership with a charity is to look for something local. Small charities often struggle to attract sufficient funding or to find expertise in all the areas in which they need it, so support from a business can mean a great deal. Working with a charity like this can help a business to develop positive relationships within the local community. It can offer you a chance to draw on and expand your knowledge of local issues, giving you a better intuitive idea of how you can connect with the market and give customers what they want.
Charities aren’t just looking for businesses as a source of money. Often, what they need most is practical advice and training. Running a charity involves a lot of the same kinds of work as running a business, but it’s often done by amateurs. People tend to get involved with charities – especially small ones – because they believe in what they do rather than because they have the right skills. This often means that there are skill gaps keeping those charities from reaching their potential. Targeted mentoring from skilled professionals can make a big difference to what they’re able to achieve.
Publicity and outreach
Having a charity partner can be really good for a business’s public image, and it’s well worth investing in joint publicity initiatives in order to make the most of it. These can be as simple as making sure that there are representatives of your business at the charity’s events to speak about the partnership, or they can involve shared advertising campaigns of sponsorship. You can also help each other by sharing your networks of contacts. Even small charities often get to know quite highly placed people because of the social value attached to their work. They can be a good means through which to come into contact with politicians who can boost your influence or celebrities who can really get you noticed.
Small charities often end up paying over the odds for everything. Simply by buying things in bulk and splitting your purchases, you can save them a lot of money. This is easy to do with routine consumables such as paper and ink. If you have an overlap in other aspects of what you do – for instance, if you sell sports equipment and support a sporting charity – then you may be able to take this approach to other areas. In return, you could ask for simple but useful promotional support such as getting your logo on the charity’s website or getting it to talk more about your support when posting on social media.
H&M and WaterAid
One business that has run a very successful partnership is the retailer H&M. Teaming up with WaterAid in 2002, when it donated 10% of the profits from a new bikini range to support the charity’s work, it has gone on to develop a wider range of water-related products to sell as part of this range, which has extra appeal to customers because it supports a good cause. The money has helped to provide access to safe, clean water for people living in impoverished areas of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Phillips Charitable and East Harlem Tutorial Program
The Karen and Charles Phillips charity has long had an interest in supporting STEM education, and in 2012 it began acting as lead sponsor for the Robotics Program, which forms part of the East Harlem Tutorial Program, helping young engineers, many of whom are from deprived backgrounds, to develop their skills. Charles Phillips’ background in computer software gave him a personal insight into the challenges faced by the young engineers. All publicity materials for the program, as well as the robot that it developed, carried the Phillips logo.
If the above sounds good to you, then how can you go about finding the right charity partner for your business? It’s a good idea to start by discussing values with your team and deciding what type of charity you all find appealing, as well as what type of charity fits your brand. Once you’ve narrowed down an area, you can search online or use a charity register – local, state or nationwide – to find a good match. You can then approach your chosen charity to see if it has an existing resource pack for businesses with an interest in getting involved, or if you need to meet to work something out from scratch.
However you go about it, partnering with a charity can be very rewarding and can transform the way that you feel about doing business.