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Seed the fertile ground between charities and businesses

By Martin Barrow

16 March 2016

The case for forging closer links between business and charities is more compelling than ever. There is a financial imperative for charities to find new sources of income, and business offers obvious attractions in that area. Charities are also constantly looking for new ways to deliver against their mission and with the ongoing retreat of the public sector there is an obvious benefit to more collaboration with companies. At the same time, businesses are increasingly keen to demonstrate their commitment to being responsible corporate citizens and to playing an active role is creating positive social change.

Our Business to Society report shows that savvy consumers are increasingly likely to make choices around the ethical conduct of companies. This is particularly true of younger consumers, with 67% of 18 to 24 year olds saying that they are more likely to give their custom to businesses with a strong stance on social and environmental issues, and 62% of 25 to 34 year olds saying they would be more likely to buy a product or service if a charity was officially endorsed by a business they can trust. And 64% of all consumers believe that businesses should work more with charities.

Charities are right to be discerning about which companies they work with, and on what terms. Our report showed that 69% of charities have turned down a partnership with a brand. The most likely reasons were rooted in concerns about the reputational impact of association with a brand that was not generally trusted by the public. But there also were concerns about unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved, and about a lack of flexibility in the way a brand wants to work with a charity.

Partnerships between charities and business must continue to develop. But they will struggle if fundraising continues to be the primary motive rather than a joint enterprise to find solutions to social needs. The concept of ‘value’ needs to be redefined to consider more than money, and outcomes can be improved by working in a more integrated way within the charity and corporate partnership. Enduring success is more likely if there is genuine and sustained buy-in from senior managers and executives at a corporate partner who, in turn, will motivate corporate staff to get behind an activity to increase impact.