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Playing the long game: Corporate charity partnerships restricted by short term focus on financial value

By Forster Communications

25 November 2015

Our study of the charity sector reveals the potential for corporate partnerships to work harder and achieve more for businesses and charities alike. To do this, they must take a longer term approach rather than focusing just on the potential financial return. While funds from corporates are vital, too much emphasis is put to the bottom line, rather than finding ways to unlock deeper and sustained social change through aligned purpose, products and staff engagement.

We consulted 28 charities with annual incomes ranging from £1m to over £200m. The results identify cultural and logistical differences between the charity and business sectors as key challenges to overcome in order to work more closely together.

Over three quarters of charities feel genuine buy-in from partners’ senior teams is a limiting factor. Almost half say corporates need to do more to motivate their staff to get behind the partnership and 85% call for more integration to help ensure the best possible outcome.

Whilst these challenges exist it is not a surprise that 70% of those surveyed said the first aspect of a partnership they look at is the money on offer. Further, over 90% of charities would accept a partnership if it was purely a donation with no additional depth of relationship.

The study showed that charities are selective about who they partner with. Every charity said that they consider brand values of a partner and over two thirds said they had rejected a partnership due to fears of negative brand association.

There was widespread interest in working with technology companies in order to realise the advantages that new and rapidly changing digital platforms and intelligence could bring to service provision.

Charities are currently caught between an urgent need to fundraise to support existing services and the desire to build longer term, solution orientated partnerships for change. While the potential for corporate-charity collaboration is clear, the reality is often frustrating with the majority of relationships still based on passive giving from business to charity.

Forster’s Business to Society research conducted with over 700 business leaders earlier in the year revealed they also have a desire to do more to address social need. Over half of business leaders agreed they should be doing more to tackle the social issues faced by our society and 56% said they should be part of the solution to tackling climate change.

The study coincides with the launch of Forster’s new Activation practice. The practice applies what has been learnt through almost 20 years of Forster’s behaviour change work to PR campaigns designed to move people to support a cause, consume better, join a movement or campaign for change. Forster is committed to accelerating social change.

We have pulled together a comprehensive report presentation on business, public and charity attitudes to partnership and social change. Drop us a line if you would be interested in us presenting those finding to you in more detail.