What’s the difference between corporate partnerships and corporate fundraising?

Since 2004, we have seen corporate giving evolve into corporate social responsibility, and more recently into purpose-driven business. Companies have moved from having partnerships with charities because it is “the right thing to do” to knowing that having a clear purpose is essential for success.

With this transition comes huge opportunity for charities, but only if we evolve our mindsets too. The corporate fundraising models that worked in 2004 are no longer fit for purpose in 2021. As a sector, we need to evolve our attitudes from corporate fundraising to corporate partnerships. This evolution will enable us to build more valuable, long term partnerships that actually bring us closer to achieving our missions.

Therefore, we have put together what we believe are the five biggest differences between corporate partnerships and corporate fundraising. These will steer your corporate charity partnerships from a place of exclusively raising funds in a transactional capacity to a place of strategic win-win partnerships that deliver value for your charity, the company, and society.

Money vs mission

The first difference is the reason for building your corporate partnerships.

Are you building corporate partnerships to raise money, or to help you achieve your mission? If it is to help you raise money, why do you need to raise money? It is likely to achieve your mission.

Start building your corporate partnerships from a place of shared purpose. Identify your mission, and the company’s mission, then find the overlap. Building a partnership around a shared goal or purpose allows your partnerships to grow and evolve over time, creating the impact you need.

For example, campaigning organization Fixe X More work to solve the problem that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. Rather than approach Positive Birth Company to ask for money, they approached them about their shared purpose. They built a partnership based on knowing every birth matters, which is a message that will evolve over time, and in turn support hundreds of women.

Short term vs long term

The second difference is how you approach setting targets.

Corporate fundraising is driven by short-term financial targets, often putting pressure on you to build a partnership before either of you are ready, just so that you can meet your in-year target. In a recent interview, one fundraiser told us that their annual target “favours our desire to conclude negotiations quickly because we need to see their money hit our books now”.

Whereas with any major prospect you need time to understand each other’s organization. We know that major partnerships often take six to 18 months to build, and better KPIs to measure are how many meetings you’re securing with target prospects, how many prospects you are moving through your pipeline and how satisfied your partners are.

Whilst it is important to have money coming in, we recommend a practice of patient persistence in order to achieve the best overall outcome for your charity.

Asking vs offering

The third difference is the difference between looking at companies as something to take from rather than an organization you can add to.

Coming with a fundraising ask to keep the office lights on isn’t inspiring, and it creates an obvious power imbalance within the relationship. In our Inspiring World Changing Partnerships Report, Daniel Priestly tells us “A lot of businesses feel like if they were to let a charity in the door, it would be like letting a vampire in and they just want to suck everything dry. They would suck the blood out of the business and then move onto the next victim.”

Corporate partnerships is about going to the company with an offer. Your charity is a great catch, and it is your job to make the company see this. Imagine going to a company and saying “you can be the company that ensure children feel like they belong”, or “you can be the company of choice for young black professionals”.

Being confident in our value, and showing the company what’s in it for them, is the key to building more balanced and valuable relationships.

Solutions vs problems

The fourth difference comes from how you pitch.

Corporate fundraisers will often take ready-made projects that need funding to a company, asking them to write a cheque and nothing more. Corporate partnerships professionals will take a problem to a company and ask them to solve it. This often leads to a better solution to the problem.

An example of this comes from SolarAid, who approached Yingli Europe. They had a shared problem in that solar lights weren’t affordable to the mass market. Together, they developed an affordably priced light which is sold worldwide. This partnership was worth way more to SolarAid than a donation from Yingli Europe, and the solution they created is helping to give people light to this day.

Quantity vs quality

The fifth difference comes down to focus.

Corporate fundraisers are often expected to hold a number of transactional partnerships, so need to be speaking to a huge number of companies in order to meet their objectives. The question they are asked is “where is the next million pounds coming from?”

Corporate Partnerships professionals ask a much stronger question – “what is the next partnership that will help us achieve our mission?” – and this allows them to focus on a much smaller, more qualified list of prospects.

When the Hospice of St. Francis made this change, they were able to secure their biggest partnership to date with Aitchisons Estate Agent.

Summary

Whilst there are many more ways that corporate partnerships are different to corporate fundraising, we hope that these give you a taste of how your corporate fundraising programme can evolve. We would love to hear any reflections on this blog on team@remarkablepartnerships.com and recommend checking out our Corporate Partnerships Masterclass for more information.

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