Hughes PR, Marketing, Public relations

What makes a successful corporate/charity partnership?

Alissa Nightingale writes…

Hughes Public Relations is often tasked by its clients to identify and support meaningful community partnerships for its clients.  Having just joined the consultancy from the not-for profit sector, I thought it would be interesting to provide some advice back to the sector on how it should approach the task of securing corporate support.

Tip number one:  the days of the ‘Olympic model’ for corporate sponsorship of gold, silver and bronze are long gone with meaningful “partnerships” now the only way to go if you’re looking to generate income and support from business.

Three things have driven this change:

  1. Business has embraced the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility over the past decade.  This requires aligning an organisation’s culture with the culture and outcomes of the not-for-profit it may choose to support to enable the meaningful involvement of staff and even shareholders.
  2. A move towards “triple bottom line” reporting has gathered up the concept of sponsorship and forced organisations to become smarter and more accountable for expenditure outside core business investments.  That means that sponsorship budgets aren’t considered as a separate funding pool, but rather as an integrated budget line supporting the overall development of the business.
  3. The GFC has made it tougher for the corporate sector to come up with cash – so it maybe that “in kind” or “hands on” involvement of businesses will be the only way to secure the support a not-for-profit needs – and that means stepping away from the ‘Olympic model’.

So, if you’re a not-for-profit organisation seeking support from the private sector, here are some tips when considering a corporate partnership approach:

Understand your organisation – it seems like an obvious statement, but too many charities cannot succinctly explain who they are and what they are fundraising for. Defining your case for support is vital before approaching any potential charity partner. There are many wonderful charities vying for funding and support, you have to determine what makes your charity stand out and worthy to partner with.

Analyse your organisation – be honest in assessing your organisation and identifying issues before embarking on a corporate partnership. By identifying and overcoming weakness / threats you will gain better results in the long term and provide a clear and transparent business model when talking to corporates.

Invest in your brand – most charities find it difficult to justify marketing budgets but growing the awareness of the brand is crucial when securing charity partnerships. Public Relations and media can provide a good return on investment and a meaningful way engage with the public. Also, don’t undervalue your brand, know what tangible things you can offer a corporate and value these. Don’t give it away for free!

Look for synergies – corporate partnerships are much more than a sponsorship. It is about finding meaningful links and creating mission driven partnerships (often resulting in untied funding for the charity and significant mutual promotional opportunities). Partnering with organisations that align with your ideals and vision are more likely to resonate with both organisations’ internal and external stakeholders.

Make a planned approach – do your research and don’t go for a blanket approach, all organisations are different! You may only get one chance so take the time to understand the target organisation’s culture, business, decision making process, stakeholders and influences. Furthermore, don’t expect to know what a corporate wants from a partnership, ask the right questions and listen to determine the best model for engagement. Corporates can offer a great deal more than just dollars to a not-for-profit organisation.

Identify Partnership KPIs – treat the partnership like any other business relationship. Have a contract established and identify objectives and key performance indicators to measure the success. This will form an important basis to initiate discussions when you are looking to review and extend the partnership.

Be patient – don’t expect it to happen overnight.  Developing a long term partnership will take time.

Promote the partnership – once you have formed a successful partnership don’t forget to invest in promoting it! Develop a detailed communications plan that will leverage the promotional opportunities for both the charity and the corporate. Let your audience know how the corporate partnership is helping achieve the charity’s mission.

Hughes PR is committed to supporting the community that supports us. We provide communications support to many wonderful South Australian charities including; SIDS and Kids SA, Ronald McDonald House, Operation Flinders, Meals on Wheels SA, Guide Dogs SA/NT, Robinson Institute and the Peter Couche Foundation.

By the way, this Friday the 29th June is Red Nose Day – supporting SIDS and Kids.

Visit for further information.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.


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