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Corporate fundraising in the UK: key developments and their implications

Corporate fundraising in the UK: key developments and their implications

Given the challenges facing individual giving in the UK, many UK charities are asking their fundraising teams to deliver more. This is often driven by the fact that fundraising is an area that charity boards and CEO’s think they understand. Hence it is a natural thing for them to ask ‘can’t we get more income from companies?’

In the face of this it is worth being reminded of the market reality.

Corporate fundraising in the UK was impacted following the global financial crisis in 2008 and has remained pretty flat ever since, according to CAF and NCVO.

In addition, economic conditions in the UK are uncertain given the planned withdrawal from the EU. Based on these two factors, now is not the time for charities to be setting highly aspirational corporate fundraising targets. This is not suggesting that senior fundraisers should be negative, but there is a need for some realism.

So when looking at the UK corporate fundraising market, what are the key trends and developments?

Organisation-wide support is essential

First of all, those charities enjoying good levels of success with corporates tend to be delivering strategic, multi-faceted partnerships involving combinations of volunteering / skills sharing, employee fundraising, and awareness raising. This requires good levels of understanding between fundraising and services / programme delivery teams.

In examining how a charity might harness these kinds of partnerships, the focus should be on how much organisational ownership there is for corporate fundraising; those charities with successful strategic partnerships all have solid support from across the organisation in order to deliver this kind of multi-faceted relationship.

Despite the focus on strategic partnerships, charity of the year is still popular amongst retailers, legal firms and the finance sector. (THINK’s charity of the year and fixed term prospect calendar details at least 90 opportunities). These opportunities are often decided by a system of staff nomination and then a staff vote and so the emotiveness of the proposition is a critical success factor.

There has been some renewed focus on charity of the year, and particularly on mid-sized charity of the year programmes (typically those run by law, finance and accounting firms with an annual average value of circa £100k). Charities looking at this area as a potential opportunity should consider three things:

  • how strong and appealing its case for support is;
  • how well it is able to secure nominations;
  • whether it has, or can quickly build, a good prospect pipeline.

An area that is often misjudged is sponsorship. Sponsorship remains an extremely tough market where rights holders must demonstrate clear business benefits in order to have any chance of success. Most charities only have a small number of genuine sponsorship properties and must be able to compete for sponsorship on purely commercial terms. Charities should always be honest with themselves about the tangible business benefits they can deliver when trying to gauge whether something will be attractive to potential sponsors. This is where many charities fall down.

There has to be a realistic and market-based assessment of a particular activity’s worth to a potential sponsor. A crude but easy measure is to compare the cost of the proposed sponsorship fee with the cost of other sponsorship or advertising opportunities that would deliver similar reach, awareness and customer engagement.

In-kind support

With companies seeking to utilise the full spectrum of their assets to deliver social impact, some charities have had good success by strategically engaging partners for in-kind support in order to remove costs from their bottom line.

A good example is Marie Curie’s partnership with logistics firm Palmer and Harvey. This relationship involved the company taking on distribution of collection materials to support Marie Curie’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal. This has delivered significant savings in distribution and storage costs. To examine the potential for offsetting expenditure, a charity should ensure its corporate teams are working with finance teams to highlight large costs in either fundraising or operational activity and then seek to identify potential partners to offset these costs.

Corporate digital fundraising

No fundraising commentary is complete without mention of digital. There are a number of corporate partnerships that are digitally-led or come to life via digital channels.

A good example from 2016 is the Ryanair partnership with SOS Children’s Villages that involved a range of typical offline fundraising mechanics alongside a ‘digital donation day’ and a childhood memory competition that was run across Ryanair’s social media platforms.

Given how the UK population is so swamped by digital marketing, coming up with an idea that delivers good content for a company can catch a prospect’s attention and enable your charity to secure a dialogue with them. The trick here is to ensure the idea is built into a proper partnership and actually delivers some cash (otherwise you have simply done the company’s marketing for them for free).

Allow time

There is still scope for innovative partnerships in the market but new ideas take time and effort to come to fruition. So the message here is to allow some time for engaging the right partners and building an idea before expecting it to deliver cash.

War Child’s inspiring and innovative work with the gaming sector has been rightly celebrated (at the National Fundraising Awards for example) but the moment of glory came as the result of strategic thinking and focussed effort to cultivate relationships. New ideas that break the mould need to be given time to incubate rather than tasked to deliver the elusive ‘quick win’.

Also, it is always worth remembering that targeting any new sector successfully requires the ability to get face to face with the right group of corporate decision makers.

So before embarking on the implementation of a new idea there needs to be some thought about how to get a conversation with the people in the right companies.

Grahame Darnell is Managing Director at Darnell Consulting and Partner Consultant at THINK


Image: Chains – by Neamov on

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