4 inspiring examples of growing partnerships

‘Plan, Deliver and Grow’, it sounds like the title to a good book, but in fact it isn’t. These are the fundamental building blocks which enable you to grow the value from your current partners. 

This blog will not only focus you on how to grow your current partnerships, it will also fill you with inspiration from four examples of partnerships that started smaller and now are the high profile (and high impact) partnerships that we all know and love.

The first step is identify your shared purpose. This is the inspirational statement that defines why you are in partnership, and will anchor your partnership even during difficult times. Then, during the partnership ensure you are showing your partner the impact they are making together. Also develop senior level relationships, and ensure you build multiple relationships in the company, so you’re not over dependent on one or two important people who could leave.

Once you are delivering an excellent partnership experience, the most important thing to do once is pitch new opportunities. Don’t save all of your exciting ideas for new business prospects! Keep engaging your partners with new growth opportunities. A really useful model for growing partnerships is called “Add a pillar” and it is used by Save the Children. It showed the different a company can partner with a charity. So the idea is you keep adding pillars to your partnership to make it stronger and more impactful.

Some of the most successful corporate-charity partnerships started small and grew over time. We hope these examples give you the inspiration and insight to look at your partnerships portfolio in a different light and take action today to identify and pitch growth opportunities, so together you can deliver more impact in a sustainable way.

1 – Macmillan and M&S 

Macmillan were looking for a headline partner for the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. M&S had been involved for some time, but the partnership was only in M&S cafés and didn’t really live up to the ‘World’s Biggest’ billing. 

Macmillan decided to take a proposal to M&S to move the partnership into the Food Hall and expand into cause-related marketing promotions on relevant food products. It was a bold move, and they knew that not only would they have to come up with a compelling proposal, but they would have to be tough negotiators because they would be dealing with people who negotiated deals for a living! 

The Macmillan team prepared ahead of time, ensuring they were agreed on what was important for the charity, and what was simply a ‘nice to have’. They also agreed at what point they would walk away – and they were prepared to do that. They worked as a team to negotiate with the team from M&S. It was quite stressful at times, but being prepared really helped. They managed to agree a deal that meant the partnership grew hugely over the next three years, to one that now raises millions each year. 

2 – Innocent and Age UK 

In 2005 Age UK had a partnership with Innocent. It involved little woolly hats being placed on Innocent smoothies that were then sold in Eat and Waitrose stores. 

It is a very special cause-related marketing promotion. The hats are knitted by older people in local Age Concerns and the funds raised go straight back to those centres. 

However, in the partnership raised £20,000, which was quite a modest return for considerable effort. Age UK believed there was significant potential to grow the partnership. 

So they investigated the possibility of knitting more hats by involving more local centres. They estimated they could increase the scale five-fold in two years. 

So in 2006 Age UK went to Innocent with an ambitious proposal to substantially grow the partnership. It involved a significant step-up in sales, marketing and project management. 

Innocent were very excited by the proposal and shared their ambition for growth. So they took the promotion to Sainsbury’s who were pleased to put it in store.  

The growth in success over the next two years was phenomenal. The number of hats grew from 80,000 in 2005 to 400,000 in 2007 and the contribution to Age UK grew from £20,000 to £200,000. Also the partnership won the Business in the Community Award for Cause Related Marketing in 2007. 

The partnership between Age UK and Innocent continues today and has now raised over £2 million to keep older people warm in winter. 

3 – Millennium Consulting and Raising Futures 

The founder of Millennium Consulting, Phil Keates, was born in Kenya. Having seen the work of Raising Futures Kenya first hand, he decided to support the charity through his business. In the first few years, the relationship was purely philanthropic – the company donated each year because it was a nice thing to do. 

When the Raising Futures Kenya team evaluated the relationship more seriously in 2019, they identified the shared purpose between the two organisations. Millennium Consulting provide financial software for companies. Raising Futures Kenya provide vocational training for Kenyan youth. Though what they do is very different, why they do it is identical – they both give people what they need to grow.  

This was exactly what Millennium Consulting needed to commit to a more strategic partnership. Two years later, they have committed to supporting Raising Futures through mentoring of their in-country teams, client engagement through an annual golf day and they regularly make introductions to other like-minded businesses.  

4 – WWF & Sodexo 

WWF have worked with Sodexo globally since 2010 to address some of the key environmental issues linked to their business including carbon reduction, responsible sourcing, food waste and sustainable eating. 

Fixing the food system is a core part of WWF’s strategy to stop the destruction of nature and to help it recover. It’s so important that we reconsider all the foods that we eat in order to reduce our carbon footprint. And that is exactly why WWF has teamed up with Sodexo helping them embed sustainable diets into their business models and encourage their chefs to more plant-based foods. 

In 2018 the partnership was across the UK, France and the U.S. At that time the challenge with the partnership was there were great initiatives happening in each country, but how could they be connected to make a big holistic impact on the planet that would really drive change but also be best in class that could push the rest of the sector to get on board. 

Then something happened. There was a change in leadership at Sodexo. A new person stepped into a global sustainability role. This was a game-changer for WWF, because this new person had a different perspective and really saw the value in what WWF were proposing based on the work in the UK. 

The WWF team realised this was an opportunity to grow the partnership so used examples from other companies to inspire Sodexo. They also engaged colleagues beyond their immediate contacts in the company.  

So the scope of the partnership started to change it became broader and they renewed in 2020 for three more years of partnering in 2020 really focusing on promising sustainable eating and reducing carbon emissions. 

The key insight from this case study is: 

  • The change in leadership was an opportunity 
  • They built relationships based on trust 
  • They engaged people at a senior level in Sodex 
  • They recognised that changing the scope of the partnership would involve some frustrations on both sides, but got through that because they did it together. 

In summary 

We recommend you not only deliver a brilliant partnership experience, but you build in opportunities to grow throughout your partnership. If you want to discover more about exceptional account management and how to grow your partnerships, please join us on our Partnership Growth Crash Course on 23rd, 25th and 30th November. Find out more here: https://www.remarkablepartnerships.com/event/partnership-growth-crash-course/

If there’s anything we can help with, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch by emailing us at team@remarkablepartnerships.com 

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