How to be bold and attract corporate partnerships

2019 started to see some significant shifting regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR) around the environment and climate – it has been a long time coming but finally there was greater movement with more companies taking action rather than simply publishing policies and taking positions.

For a number of years, people have said that companies are being held to account by employees and their customers. To a certain degree this has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of social media and therefore greater awareness around campaigns, views and action being taken against badly behaved companies; but in 2019, it really felt as if the pace changed not just because of key figures such as Greta Thunberg, but because more companies chose not to hide but to take responsibility for their past and many took substantive actions for the better.

And then the BOOM moment arrived with COVID; a moment that nobody knows the true impact of...... but that has left no business or sector untouched. Very quickly companies responded, many of whom we had seen or heard very little of in terms of their social purpose in the past, but they reacted quickly and decisively, with a bold purpose, and they were met with a rewarding response. Every business is faced with navigating a new economic landscape for its long-term survival, and CSR is a crucial tool that can be used to help navigate and guide that landscape. At the core of CSR is an individual’s or a company’s duty to act in the best interests of their environment and society as a whole; and there is no better moment than now to embrace this core value to help drive all aspects of a business forward.

The charity sector is going to need to be bold too if it is to meet the demands of its beneficiaries and create partnerships with the corporate sector.

This call to be bold can be both daunting and feel unattainable especially given the uncertain landscape upon which we find ourselves. So much celebration fell upon the breweries/distilleries and luxury product companies who pivoted their businesses to produce hand sanitizers; but how does this really change anything for charities who are seeking those all-important corporate partnerships, or trying to evolve a partnership into something more strategic and more impactful? It is interesting to note that most of the support being celebrated is non-financial and, although the charity sector is all too aware of the growing need to build partnerships which have all or some elements of the partnership being non-financial support, the need for financial support is critical and for some charities their existence will rely upon cash support.

What does being bold really mean when looking to attract corporate partners? Here are three top tips to work on over the coming months as you look to forge new corporate partnerships:

  • Take risks – embrace the challenging landscapes, take calculated risks as you strive for success. Taking risks means you will sometimes fail but see these instances as opportunities to learn and grow. At the same time, encourage risk-taking and growth among others around you – challenge potential partners to take risks with you to drive a bold and impactful agenda. Calculated risks require you to speak with people and gather intelligence – do not rely on internet research solely, pick up the phone and speak with people. People enjoy giving their opinion, views and experience. Don’t be afraid of failure, know your strengths and weaknesses, this will help you to push forward a bold plan.
  • Display confidence – confidence is contagious and comes from a very authentic place, it is a key characteristic for a successful journey. Showing confidence in your ability, the cause for which you are working and also in the people around you will have a significant impact on your overall capacity to be bold. Be mindful of the good decisions you make and build this into your confidence building journey. Seek and maintain relationships with those you admire for their confidence – take time to meet with them. Don’t always feel the need to say yes. When developing a partnership, saying no is healthy and can be necessary when building mutually beneficial partnerships. I remember the first time I declined a partnership with the support of the organisation I was working for, it was a very empowering moment and an important one. Interestingly the same company crossed my path years later and a fabulous partnership was created.
  • Set goals – we are all setting goals for ourselves all the time, however when looking to build corporate partnerships perhaps break down your ambitious goal into small steps, in the end it may take more steps to achieve your goal but at least you can feel and see progress. See your goal as a path that takes you in the direction you want to go rather than an end game and if you fail, fail fast and move on. Be flexible, move in the direction of what’s important rather than being rigid about the outcomes. Corporate partners have their own goals, bold goals are rarely achieved alone so make sure you take people along with you and listen.

Whilst the challenges ahead are significant, there are opportunities, but they will rely on you reaching out, speaking and engaging with companies who are perhaps less versed in CSR and charitable partnerships. The need for non-financial support will be key, so make sure you have your organization on board, to ensure strategic needs can be met that deliver real impact to your organization, rather than burdening your organization with activities that use up vital resources.

If we want our organizations to be bold, our sector to be bold, we need to start with ourselves. Small steps can make a big difference; but we need to start today.

"The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock."
Tony Gaskin

Michelle Sorrell is Associate Consultant at THINK Consulting Solutions.
Click here to meet Michelle.