Reimagining the way companies work with charities

Heart of the City | 16 October 2020 | News
Reimagining the way companies work with charities

From building brand awareness to targeting a new niche of customers, it’s a no brainer when it comes to partnering with a charity. For many businesses, it also forms the community arm of their responsible business programmes.

However, for some small businesses, the decision to partner with a charity can be unfamiliar. After all, many SMEs are focused on growing margins, attracting talent and building their business. When revenue growth is critical, it seems counterintuitive to partner with a charity. But on top of supporting something you and your customers believe in, lots of SMEs find partnering with a charity beneficial. It expands marketing opportunities, helps the company better connect with customers and creates networking opportunities.

Heart of the City ambassador Octopus has shared how they help charities and communities, not just with money but with something even more valuable: their time and enthusiasm.  They do this through Octopus Giving, their charitable foundation. Octopus Giving has been working closely with four charity partners, Choir with No Name, FoodCycle, MyBnk and Downright Excellent, since 2017. Over the years, they’ve supported these charities with volunteering, funding and expertise.

Louise Skinner, Octopus Giving Programme Manager shares her thoughts on the impact charitable giving and partnerships have had on Octopus people:

“Our people have really thrown themselves behind our charity partners right from the start; whether it’s volunteering at our partners’ projects across the UK or sharing their skills with our charities to help them do more. We find that volunteering gives our people the feeling that they’re really helping as well as learning new skills and getting fresh perspectives and team building.”

How has Octopus helped their charity partners?

MyBnk teaches young people aged 5-25 about money. Using expert trainers, they work on content to help improve financial literacy and stop young people from getting into debt or bankruptcy. Octopus Giving has donated restricted funding, giving them the freedom to use the money where it’ll have the most impact. Staff at Octopus have also volunteered at MyBnk workshops and have shared their skills to support different parts of their charity, such as IT and relationship management.

Choir with No Name runs choirs for homeless and marginalised people across the UK. Getting together for choir rehearsals and workshops gives members the chance to socialise, have fun and build friendships. As well as the social aspect, Choir with No Name provides food at every rehearsal, making sure participants have a hot meal as well as a great time. Plus, the charity helps members with difficult tasks they might be facing, from job applications to applying for funding grants and or finding somewhere to live. Through unrestricted funding, Octopus Giving has given the choir the freedom and security to explore new ways to reach even more marginalised people in the UK.

FoodCycle feeds vulnerable people by serving tasty lunches and dinners across the UK. The charity fights social isolation by bringing people together to enjoy a meal, using surplus food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Over the last three years, Octopus Giving has donated funds to FoodCycle which has allowed the charity to invest in their volunteer management system, looking after all 4,000 FoodCycle volunteers around the country.

Downright Excellent (DEx) enables children with Down syndrome to maximise their potential. They provide weekly speech and language, occupational therapy and life skills sessions for children with Down syndrome. They also provide quality play experiences for the children and their siblings, plus education and support for parents and carers. Octopus Giving funding has enabled DEx to fund specialised Down syndrome therapists. They’ve worked with 115 families, helping children learn skills such as speaking or walking.

What’s next?

Octopus has had such a great time working with these four charities, with hundreds of employees volunteering at events, cooking, singing, bucket-shaking, fundraising and helping with IT, marketing and finance. And while they’ll still be supporting them as legacy partners, they’re sad to say they must wish their four charities a fond farewell as partners.

It does mean that they’ll be on the hunt for new charitable partners in Spring 2021- more information about this will be available online then.

How to partner with a charity

When it comes to partnering with a charity, it’s important to consider the needs of your communities and where you can offer the most effective support. Consider your local community and involve employees, customers clients and community representatives in the decision. Involving employees in the decision helps connect the team to the partnership.

Instead of providing funding or donations, it’s better to be creative and develop a real partnership that benefits both your business and the charity you’re working with. Think about what your business needs and how the charity could support you to address them. For example, is there a customer group you want to engage more effectively? Are there skills that you want to develop in your team that you could learn from a charity partner? Perhaps think about giving a percentage of sales to one of your charities by letting your customers choose their preferred organisation at checkout. This can help customers shop their values and increases the rate of repeat purchases. Or develop your relationships with customers by inviting them to join employees to volunteer together at local charities.

Don’t forget, we have valuable resources on working with community partners and how you can support your community in the time of crisis and overcome the challenges Covid-19 has presented.

There are many creative ways to partner with charities, and the best thing for a small business to do is think about how the partnership can connect to the local community and benefit the business.

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