What should a business look for in a charity partner?

Bruce Burgoyne, creative director at Mackman

Bruce Burgoyne, creative director at Mackman - Credit: Archant

Many modern businesses look to partner with local charities but what is the best way of supporting a good cause that will deliver mutual benefits over the long term?

Banners inside St Peter's Sudbury designed by Mackman

Banners inside St Peter's Sudbury designed by Mackman - Credit: Archant

Corporate social responsibility, charity fundraising and volunteer days are all initiatives pursued by modern, progressive businesses.

But what is the best way for a business to support a good cause beyond a one-off event? How should companies go about aligning themselves with charities and non-profit organisations that give them the best chance of developing a long-term, sustainable relationship that benefits both parties?

Who better to ask than the team at Suffolk firm Mackman, which last year was visited by The High Sheriff of Suffolk, Geoffrey Probert, who presented the company with a certificate of recognition “as a token of appreciation on behalf of Suffolk” following Mackman’s contribution of £62,000-worth of work to local organisations during 2017.

The family-run marketing business in Sudbury has developed long-term relationships with a number of charities in the town including the Bridge Project, which provides work opportunities for people with learning difficulties, conservation body the Sudbury Common Lands Charity and St Peter’s, a redundant town centre church whose supporters would like to see it become an arts and cultural venue.

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“Contributing to our local community is really important to us,” said Mackman’s creative director, Bruce Burgoyne, who recently spoke at the Suffolk Volunteering Conference on what businesses should look for when selecting a charity partner.

Bruce Burgoyne presenting at workshop

Bruce Burgoyne presenting at workshop - Credit: Archant

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“We regularly work with local charities providing them with marketing services to help build their brand profile. Sharing our knowledge and advice to help other businesses offer their services to charities too, is another way we can help both businesses and charities to flourish within the community.”

Bruce believes the reason Mackman works well with charities is because it takes the principles it uses commercially with clients and applies them through to the charitable sector - where often organisations don’t have the manpower or money to do marketing properly.

“For charities who have limited resources, marketing often gets forgotten - but if you don’t market your services you are taking out a massive chunk that connects you with your audience,” added Bruce.

To ensure a fruitful, sustainable relationship Mackman have developed a process which is about identifying shared values, a common language, and a vision that both sides of the partnership can buy into.

“When your internal team are looking to select a partner they need to be on the same page - it’s not going to work long-term just because someone’s auntie shops somewhere. They have to be aligned with your values,” continued Bruce, who points to the link up between DIY retailer B&Q and housing charity Shelter as “a great fit”.

Mutual benefit

Paul Mackman, managing director of marketing agency Mackman, with Geoffrey Probert, the High Sheriff

Paul Mackman, managing director of marketing agency Mackman, with Geoffrey Probert, the High Sheriff of Suffolk. - Credit: Archant

As part of the relationship B&Q funded a team of DIY specialists who went out and taught basic DIY skills and carried out essential jobs to people at risk of losing their home, and those settling into a new home following a period of homelessness.

“This is a great example of how both brands have found a common language, aligned their shared values and agreed a partnership that benefits both parties,” said Bruce, whose says another example might be a charity that offers debt counselling and support for people who are struggling with their finances to partner with a bank or accountancy firm who could offer practical support and financial advice to clients as well as the usual funbdraising activities.

Benefits for any company working with a charity are many - from helping out in the community with your business skills; providing training opportunities for junior staff and developing professional networks.

“It’s about a mutual benefit - if either party feels they are not getting value from the partnership it will break down,” Bruce added.

Five business benefits of working with a charity

Give something back

The biggest value you can give back to your local community is the business experience you have.

Greater understanding

When a business chooses to work collaboratively with a charity it can help change their perception of their local community.

Training opportunities

Working with charities is the perfect opportunity to give projects to junior members of staff or even people on work placements.

Mutual marketing

Businesses can benefit from the positive publicity of working with charities.

Expanding your network

Supporting charities opens up opportunities to meet other organisations

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