Differences in organisational culture hold back partnerships

Our recent Hidden Opportunities research revealed that cultural differences between charities and companies are a barrier to them partnering together. In this blog we dive deeper into this barrier to explore why it exists and how you can overcome it.


Companies are motivated by delivering their bottom line. It is fair to say that purpose driven business is becoming increasingly important, however making a profit is still their top priority, especially in tough economic times.

What motivates charities is very different. Their priority is maximising the impact on the environment and/or society. Also when it comes to corporate partnerships often fundraising is their priority. The problem of these different motivations is made even worse because companies and charities are not open with each other about their reasons for partnering.

Recommendation: The way to overcome difference in motivation is to lean into purpose. The sweet spot of your partnership is where the company’s mission overlaps with your charity’s mission. That’s where you will find your shared purpose, which is the foundation for strategic and transformational partnerships. 


Companies need to be agile and adapt to changes in their market place and customers’ needs. This means they need to move at a fast pace, so they tend to have efficient decision making processes. Charities, by contrast, tend to be much more consultative. This has the benefit of taking people with you, however making decisions is usually much slower. I have seen partnerships between charities fail due to slow response times from the charity.

Recommendation: Companies need to be more patient and understand that charities might struggle to move as quickly as they do. Charities need to make their decision making more efficient, so they speed up their response time. For example, one of the reasons why Age UK secured their ground-breaking partnership with Cadbury’s was their speed of response. 

Attitude to risk

Companies recognise that they need to take calculated risks in order to grow and succeed. They understand the importance of innovating, testing and evaluating. However, charities tend to be more risk averse. This is due to a number of factors including their consultative decision making, which means you don’t take risks because you are trying to keep everybody happy. Also the stakes for charities are bigger, because changing lives is much mor significant than just profit.

Recommendation: Companies can help charities understand the importance of taking calculated risks. Charities should embrace innovation as an important driver for growth.


Typically, companies have more resources than charities. These resources include skills, connections, colleagues and budgets. So if they want something done they can make it happen. Charities are often short on resources. This can result in them getting stuck and being slow to make progress. As mentioned above, this slow pace can cause friction in partnerships.

Recommendation: Companies should bear this lack of resources in mind when partnering with charities. So they should offer support, such as a colleague’s time or budget to overcome obstacles and keep things moving. Charities should be honest about their lack of resources and identify the help they need. If possible, they should also set aside a new partnerships budget which they can use to seize opportunities.


As the saying goes, “opposites attract” and this is definitely true for corporate-charity partnerships. It’s this difference that makes them so vital and valuable. We hope you use this insight and recommendations to overcome the difference in organisation cultures, because these partnerships can help both companies and charities deliver their core objectives.

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