Guest blog: How to build an effective partnership between a small business and a charity

Sarah Browning, Effective Communication Specialist

In this guest blog, Sarah Browning explains exactly what you need to do to build an effective partnership which your small business or charity can benefit from long term

The unprecedented times that we are all facing right now undoubtedly have many dark, frightening aspects. But I have also noticed that there are some signs of hope for our uncertain future – communities coming together, businesses and charities finding ways to support each other, a sense of taking actions for the greater good.

It’s a time of huge difficulty, when many organisations, both not-for-profit and commercial, are struggling. Charities in particular face a perfect storm of reduced funding and increased need for their services.

I believe that the organisations which survive in the longer-term will have done two things:

  • Tell their story in a way that shows how they are part of the solution to the problems that society and individuals now face
  • Think innovatively about how they operate to provide their services to those in need.

One approach will be to look at new ways to set up partnerships between charities and businesses. Rachel Eden’s recent blog set out a useful 5-step process to embarking on a partnership.

Collaboration between two organisations requires many things, such as appropriate processes and a desire to make it work. What it also requires is strong, effective communication between the organisations that are coming together.

For those that are considering taking this route of working with others for the greater good, there are a number of communication points to consider:

  • From the start, you need to be clear about what you hope to get from working together and articulate that clearly. It might be that compromise is required for all parties to achieve their aims from the collaboration. You need to have that discussion at the start, not when you are already embroiled in a charity of the year scheme or asking for donations in kind.
  • You need to have clear messages for both your internal staff and volunteer body and your external audiences, such as supporters and service-users. They will want to understand what you are trying to achieve with the partnership and if/how it will affect them.
  • Regular contact between the charity and the business for the duration of the partnership. This is important for ensuring that once you have started from the same page, you remain on the same one over time.
  • Listen. To each other, to your service-users, to your funders, to your supporters, to other relevant bodies and agencies. Anyone who is in any way impacted by your collaboration will have an opinion and it is crucial to listen to what is being said, to ensure you remain on track with your original aims and make the difference you were hoping for.

Business-charity partnerships aren’t for everyone, but they can make a huge difference when done well. And if nothing else, 2020 has shown that working together is far more valuable to us all than trying to go it alone.

Further Help

Sarah is an associate of Holy Brook and also works independently on Communication, specialising in not-for profits.

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