In November 2018, a carers’ charity and a huge energy company announced a major partnership. It was the biggest partnership the charity had ever built. There was a noticeable ripple of excitement that travelled across the whole charity – but this excitement was quickly followed by nerves.
In October 2022, the impact of this partnership is unbelievable. It has created a step-change in the way that society recognizes, values and supports the cause. It has also created a step-change in how the company treat their colleagues and customers. They have truly delivered their shared purpose.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. As with any first – a first pitch or a first major partnership – there were lessons learnt along the way. We are delighted to share with you the key insights from this partnership that you can apply to your own practice.
The importance of focus
Like many charities, the charity in this partnership had never truly focussed on corporate partnerships. They had a history of smaller, transactional partnerships and a busy pipeline – with a clear focus on Charity of the Year applications.
After a few disappointing losses, where they had put their all into an application, they realised that something needed to change. They needed to focus on fewer, more meaningful opportunities.
At Remarkable Partnerships, we often talk about Charity of the Year applications as the grand national of corporate partnerships. They’re big, they’re glamorous, but they only last a year. This charity saw the value in entering a one-horse race instead.
They found the companies where they already had contacts and where there was a genuine opportunity for transformation. You could read our blog on how to spot a five star prospect here.
It pays to be ambitious
With fewer companies in the pipeline, it was important to focus on bigger opportunities.
They moved from pitching one-year, reactive opportunities to multi-year strategic partnerships. Longer, broader, greater. Initially, this put the team out of their comfort zone – but they quickly found the tools to justify this ambition.
By pitching longer partnerships, you give yourself the time to create real societal change. You also give yourself the time to build solid foundations in both organisations. The charity learnt the broader the partnership, the stronger the foundation. This particular partnership grew to include programmatic support, cause related marketing and even a commercial element.
The breadth of activity served the charity well. As the company went through a restructure, there were enough advocates for the partnership for the relationship to continue.
Create a partnerships culture
With only a team of two to deliver this major partnership, the charity knew they would need the support of their colleagues to make it happen.
As such, they engaged their colleagues from the start and quickly established ways of working. With a clear understanding of what each team needed from the corporate partnerships lead, they were able to deliver a constantly evolving partnership.
One particular highlight was establishing a working group within the charity, catching up regularly about the various projects. This ensured everyone moved forward on the same page.
Just as ways of working were established with internal teams, it was equally important to establish these with the partner. They learned the hard way that it is important to agree clear objectives and deadlines, especially as key contacts change throughout the partnership.
The insight here, then, is to establish goals, communication methods and priorities early. By ensuring both organisations were on the same page, they were able to move forward much faster.
Success attracts success
Finally, the insight that stuck out to the charity most was that success attracts success. It can be incredibly difficult to build and deliver a major partnership. However, once this partnership is up and running – and you are able to communicate it – other major partners become easier to win.
It is fair to say that both the charity and the company are still learning as they go, but these five insights were fundamental for their past success.