Last Friday I sat in on our ‘Working with Corporates’ workshop. It was a super day, well attended by about twenty participants from various charities and social enterprises. Big thanks to Paula Rogers (Lloyds Bank), Louise Smith (Linklaters), Anju Saush (PwC), Kate Van Der Plank (Connect Five Consulting), Kate Chester (Ambition), Alastair Wilson (SSE) and Michelle Benson (SSE) for sharing their wisdom through the day, and to Amy Barbor for taking on the facilitation duties.
Here are some of the key themes that I took from the day…
Do your research.
One thing that each of the corporates stressed is the importance of doing some research before you approach them. CSR teams receive a high number of requests for support from charities and social enterprises and you need to ensure that your vision and mission matches the vision and mission of the corporate that you are approaching. You need to be as specific as possible about the support that you want, and know why you are asking that corporate ahead of others.
There is often no single ‘CSR budget’ within a corporate.
CSR budgets tend to get split into different pots, and if you apply for one pot of money and don’t get it there is no reason not to apply for others within the same organisation. For example, a single organisation may have a charitable foundation / community fund, a community investment team ‘operational’ budget, a business budget and then a match funding scheme in place to support employee fundraising. Find out what funding a corporate provides and how you can apply for it.
You need someone to champion your cause within the corporate.
This was a common theme among all our speakers. You should aim to have a member of staff within a corporate (the more senior the better) who can become an advocate for your organisation. This will help to raise your profile above others competing for corporate support and may even allow you to bypass some of the procedures that CSR teams usually go through. If you don’t have a contact that you can use, ask your staff, trustees and supporters if they have any connections that you can meet with.
Make sure that you maintain relationships with corporate supporters.
It can take a long time and a lot of effort to win support from a corporate, so when they do back you, do everything that you can to hold onto them! Be honest if you make mistakes (make sure that they hear them from you first) and really work to build up a strong relationship. Get them involved with your organisation so that they can really see how their support benefits you and your beneficiaries.
A cold approach to a corporate may not be the best approach.
Each of the corporates talked about ‘CSR brokers’ and the value that they can add to your organisation. Essentially they act as a middleman between you and the corporate, but the advantage that they have is that they have a direct line to the CSR team. Examples include Business in the Community, ELBA (the East London Business Alliance) and City Action. Find out who the brokers are in your area and get in touch with them.
If you’d like to book your place on the next Working with Corporates workshop, please visit our website for dates, price and further information.