I run a business and my head of marketing has suggested we launch a corporate partnership with a local charity. In principle I am in favour of it but do you think it is likely to lead to tangible benefits for our company?
The relationship between corporations and charities is quite a delicate one. Customers are wary of businesses that try to use charity to sell to them. Charity at the end of the day should be charity and I strongly believe there should be a philanthropic strand to every business. If you're making any profit at all, there's space to support a charity. Even if it isn't giving money, it might be helping out with events or offering skills. If the partnership is managed properly, it will enhance your reputation, bring your staff together and help the charity — so everyone benefits.
Charities recognise that a business has to have a reason to get involved with them and that it will only be partly philanthropic. Although it might feel mucky at points in the middle, it's actually quite a good relationship, and trying to measure it in pure marketing terms is not going to work, as that will push you to overtly use your charity for exposure. Consumers will run a mile from that. Getting involved with the charity, talking about it to customers and staff and spreading the word is a much softer approach, and often more successful than just using the charity as a brand.
If you do decide on a charity partnership, then choose it carefully to fit with your business. For example, it makes sense for a business that sells riding wear to partner up with an equine charity. With the right fit, your staff and consumers are likely to feel engaged, which means more benefits for everyone involved.
Deborah Meaden is author of Common Sense Rules (Random House, £7.99). Send your problems to Dear Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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