For many voluntary organisations, the large charity of the year partnerships are inaccessible, whether it be a case of not meeting the criteria of national service delivery, focusing on the ‘wrong’ cause, or simply not having a broad enough appeal, or a big enough brand. This means that for a significant number of charities Tesco et al are simply not on the agenda.
At Battersea, we are able to work with partners who recognise the power of our brand, national supporter base and breadth of media channels. This allows us to tap into partners’ marketing budgets and often circumnavigate CSR policies that might otherwise exclude us. However, this brand power is a rare commodity, and consequently one I cherish.
Prior to joining Battersea I was the lone fundraiser for a small local charity that visited adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities, running hour-long sessions designed to engage and involve them. Less than 4 per cent of the population falls within this group, and they tend to be invisible – cared for by the community in residential homes where there is little opportunity for interaction with the outside world. The charity I worked for had been delivering this service for more than 20 years, yet was virtually unheard of, had a name that was actually a bit of a misnomer and focused pretty much all of its efforts in one county. This was not an ‘easy’ corporate sell.
In fact the first thing I learned was that in terms of return on investment, focusing on trusts and foundations was a significantly better use of my time than seeking out cold corporate prospects. There are a multitude of trusts and foundations that are set up to support smaller charities or less popular causes. These became the bedrock of my efforts and produced some amazing returns.
The other key thing I learned was: don’t go in cold! When you don’t have immediate brand stand-out, then use your connections. Trustees, the other halves of your colleagues or friends who work locally can all become your strongest champions – and it often only takes one.
The other area of success came from focusing on the very reason that we weren’t relevant to big supermarkets – our localness. As well as schemes like Waitrose Community Matters (this takes 10 minutes to fill in and you may have to wait a while, but you will get something back) and other branch-led activities, we also found local businesses that embraced the opportunity to work with a charity close to home.
Finally, make a feature of being a smaller charity. For many smaller corporates the impact of their donation can be greater in a smaller organisation. Smaller charities can develop stronger and more meaningful relationships that avoid the charity of the year churn and allow a donor to feel that they are making a real difference – whatever the size of the donation. Small can be beautiful, especially if you’re small too.
Corporate fundraising for a smaller charity is a challenge, but there are organisations for whom supporting a charity that is literally on their doorstep has a real and tangible appeal – you just need to find the right way into them.