While presenting an opportunity to strengthen their own brands, it is essential for companies to choose the right cause and partner charity up front to ensure they get the most out of their CSR partnerships.
We have come up with some top tips for choosing your CSR partner (drawing on personal experiences at Children with Cancer UK) spanning various topics that those interested in engaging in CSR should consider.
Choosing the right charity
Before identifying a charity to work with, it is important to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you pick the one that will best work with you. Are you a big or small company? Are you looking for a charity to reflect your size, or do you want to make a greater difference to a smaller organisation? Do you have a personal affiliation with a charity that you believe your company can get behind? At Children with Cancer UK we find that the fact we are small and family-orientated resonates with companies wishing to make a real difference to our work. Bigger charities also often find common ground with corporates who share a similar mission – take, for example, energy companies who partner with older people charities.
Transparency within the third sector is a contentious issue, and for that reason it should be front and centre when picking your CSR partner. Without transparency the raison d’etre of CSR is undermined. At Children with Cancer UK we ensure that we are completely transparent with our partners on how we spend the money we raise and how it is generated. This is an important aspect to consider when choosing a charity partner: as a company you want to be sure you are making the biggest impact you can and that you are satisfied the charity can deliver what it sets out to do.
It is also important to understand how the charity in question has decided to allocate its funds to maximise reach and impact. You want to be sure to be making a difference in the way you hoped for as an organisation. It’s also important to communicate these successes properly to customers. We seek guidance from our Scientific Advisory Panel, ensuring that future research endeavours are cutting-edge and have the highest probability to advance our work in the fight against childhood cancer.
Selecting a charity partner needs to make sense for your company and its aims. As such, bear in mind whether your two organisations align in values and motivations. Do your staff personally connect with this charity? Perhaps they can play a role in the selection process? Not only will this help democratise the selection process but it will help to ensure that staff are engaged, motivated and consequently optimum funds are raised.
Now that you have picked your charity how do you ensure you meet your CSR, financial and PR aims for the partnership over the long term?
First, ensure your team is led by charity champions. Build a team to motivate peers and remind them of the value of what they’re doing. These champions will be in regular discussion with a dedicated account manager to make sure fundraising ideas are kept fresh and engaging. Charity champions will also form a conduit for internal communications on the partnership to ensure everyone stays involved.
Second, stay dynamic and varied – don’t be stagnant in running a bake sale every year. Create special events, with new and bold challenges, that present exciting commercial or sponsorship opportunities. Imaginative events can inspire beyond their financial value. Make the partnership work for you as much as for the charity.
Finally, stay relevant by building strong relationships with all levels of staff across the two organisations – including key stakeholders like managers and executives. This keeps the partnership blossoming at every level – ensuring its relevance to all involved – and connecting employees who have a common goal. This will foster an invaluable sense of team spirit that will boost fundraising efforts.
Jayne Falconer is major relationships manager at Children with Cancer UK