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| Posted by: Adam Allnutt

Corporate fundraising – It’s about what we can do together

Adam Allnutt, Consultant on our Fundraising Team sat down with Nicky Read to discuss the latest trends and innovations happening in corporate fundraising.

Nicky is a Senior Fundraising Manager with experience of corporate, philanthropy, events, trading, community and special events gained through more than a decade of working at well-known charities such as Mare Curie, Sue Ryder, Anthony Nolan and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us Nicky, can you kick us off by telling us about the start of your career?

So my career actually started in media sales and then I moved into recruitment. Both gave me a really good grounding in account management, sales, business development and negotiation and were the catalyst for my passion in income generation. The one thing that was missing for me was the motivation for what I was doing, and in the back of my mind, I had always wanted to work for a charity. Back then, it was not an easy transition and I did struggle to find that entry-level role. After speaking to friends that I already had in the sector, we looked at where my skills could fit and corporate fundraising seemed like the best path. After attending a job fair I was given an opportunity to volunteer with the fundraising team at Child Line, and after that, I was able to land my first role at Breakthrough Breast Cancer in their new business team.

For much of your career you have focused on new business development, what do you think is the most important thing you have learnt when developing a new corporate partnership?

The relationships. It seems obvious, but you need to build an in-depth understanding of the organisation you are dealing with, and it’s invaluable to fully understand a company’s culture, their employees, and if they have them, their customers. That is how you can make sure you are working from the same platform and have aligned values to deliver the desired outcome. Charities aren’t there to sell products for companies, and it shouldn’t be about what we can do for you, but about what we can do together; this is where you can make a real impact. I think it is clear to see when a partnership is successful, for example when I was at Marie Curie we won the partnership with SPAR, maybe not an obvious choice, but they have just raised their first £1 million, which is fantastic! Why did this partnership work? Well, SPAR’s tagline is ‘there for you’ and they really are there in every community with 2,500 locations throughout the UK, their staff know their regular customers and look out for the community. This was really mirrored in the values of Marie Curie, who have 2,000 staff nurses working day and night, visiting homes in every community where SPAR operates.

What do you see as the most creative partnership that you’ve developed?

One that I am still very proud of, both in how it was created and then implemented, was the GHD partnership with Breakthrough Breast Cancer/Breast Cancer Now. It’s a cause-related marketing partnership with a donation from the sale of pink hair straighteners, which started back in 2004, and is still running 15 years later and has raised almost £10m. At the time GHD were a smaller distributor without any retail outlets of their own but they did stock in over 700 salons, which is where I saw an opportunity to really leverage the partnership. Our target audience was women, and this was the demographic at all of the salons, so I suggested that we also sell pink ribbons in every location and include breast cancer care leaflets and information. Selling those ribbons and additional salon fundraising made an additional £125,000. For me, this partnership was not just a successful transactional relationship but it also gave us a great platform to spread breast cancer awareness and the message of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Something that I took away from the partnership was that whenever you work with a retail partner you need to think of all the different levels and platforms you could work with e.g. their in-store fundraising, their employee fundraising, their touch points with customers and the opportunity to work with suppliers. You need to explore these channels and have an integrated team that works on all the different levels. Finding something that both the customers and staff enjoy, really makes an impact.

Whilst we are on the subject of retail, have you witnessed a shift with consumers moving away from the high street, and what do you think are the biggest challenges for these retail partnerships? 

I do think it is getting more difficult to fundraise on the high street, but there is still a place for those partnerships. Retailers are always going to be a big part of the economy, and companies like M&S really lead the way with their innovative approach with Plan A. They do both an offline and online approach with their Sparks card so there is a different approach to their fundraising. I do think there will be a shift to more online practices, you can see that disruption is coming but I don’t think it has necessarily hit retail fundraising in the same way that it has hit other areas.

Consumers are more considerate in the way they purchase and want to be more ethical; look at the movement to reduce plastic use. World issues are important to the public and there has been a shift in the last 10 years with companies realigning their Corporate Social Responsibility policies. Amazon Smile is a good example, every time you purchase something online you can donate to a charity of your choice. Retailers definitely shouldn’t be avoided for partnerships, but you do need to explore different avenues. Corporate companies are always looking to differentiate themselves in the consumer marketplace and having a cause they are aligned to is a big plus.

What’s been the biggest innovation in partnership development in your career?

This was an interesting question. I’m not sure what I’m about to say is the biggest innovation, but more about a shift in the way corporate companies are thinking and approaching partnerships. At first, it was about cause-related marketing, corporate donations, sponsorship and there was very little employee engagement, then I witnessed the evolution of a ‘charity of the year’ model, but it was still very transactional. Now you can see that charity’ causes and missions have become embedded in companies’ ethos and fit into a wider CSR portfolio. It is no longer corporate companies just raising money for a charity to do something; they want to be part of the change. Lloyds Banking Group is a good example of this, they work with a consortium of charities so that they can create thematic change in social, economic and environmental challenges. With their Mental Health UK partnership, they identified that financial problems and mental health issues go hand in hand, as well as mental health being a concern for everyone so they have focused their support around creating services to support their employees and customers. 

This shift also means that corporate partnerships don’t always have to be about the exchange of money. They can also show donations in terms of their time and skills with pro bono partnerships. This cannot only save the charity money but is beneficial for both sides. When I was at Marie Curie we worked with Barclays and their digital eagles, as we had funding for all of our 2,000 nurses to receive tablets to work on, but many of them didn’t feel comfortable with the tech. After approaching Barclays, they were keen to support us with their Digital Eagles and we worked together to create a programme so that all Marie Curie nurses could go into any branch and get training, which was incredibly well received.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Nicky.