Developing Value Generating Charity Partnerships that Get Staff Engagement

Developing Value Generating Charity Partnerships that Get Staff Engagement

29th January 2024, 11:33 am

In 2024 companies are seeing the multitude of values in working with charities. Whether you seek to improve employee satisfaction, reach CSR goals, reap tax benefits, or strengthen team bonds, there are many ways in which giving back to your community can feed into the success of your operation. However, finding a charity partnership that succeeds in providing value to your organisation and to the cause you have selected can be a tricky balance. This article presents ways to improve outcomes from charitable partnerships in terms of brand storytelling, employee engagement, and in generating real value for your charitable partner.

1. Think about what matters to your company brand values

a. What field do you work in? Are there relevant social causes that you could contribute to directly? What are your brand values? Do you work in technology? Diversity? Ecology? One must consider how charitable work aligns with your core mission to ensure a good fit. If your company makes car parts in Oldham but goes to plant trees in Liverpool, although the earth will thank you, does that help tell the story of who you are and what you are about? Charity work is an opportunity to

highlight the values behind your business so selecting a cause that reflects this will make this a more coherent and logical proposition.

2. Speak to your team about their values

a. Community engagement is also a chance for employee engagement. Studies show that younger workforces in particular want to work for a company that aligns with their values and provides support with or opportunities to get involved in causes that matter to them. Engaging with your team also generates some buy-in to your plan, no matter what you pick. If the team feels their voice has been heard and that they’ve had a hand in planning they are much more likely to sign up to volunteering days, bring in donations, or donate a fiver.

3. Be realistic about what you can commit

a. Before you start reaching out to charities, think about your assets, what you can bring to the table. Charities have a variety of needs, but most of them have small teams so they appreciate transparency. If you cannot execute something, due to time, scheduling, budget, holiday leave, be honest about that.

If you run a marketing firm with a team of 6 you probably won’t be able to commit to sending a team every week to work in a foodbank, but you might be able to offer one day of support in developing an awareness campaign. This allows your specialist skills to maximise the benefit to the charity you are working with.

4. Examine existing company policies

a. As part of tip 3, what existing structures are in place to support volunteering? Are all employees given 1 day a year? Does this have to be all in one calendar day or can it be broken down into smaller chunks? How do you track these days?

If you have any specific reporting requirements it will be useful to go into meetings knowing what you need to make things work for your business. If you need paperwork from the day of coordinator or forms like risk assessments filled out before volunteering days you can let the charity know in advance so they can prepare.

5. Try to work locally

a. There are many causes that provide vital support across the country and the world, but to generate mutually beneficial relationships, having a local location will help enable engagement. If the charity has an impact in your local area this will raise the chances of volunteering opportunities nearby. The easier it is for staff to get to your volunteering dates, the more likely they will be to book on and attend.

This also allows you to meet in person and see what the organisation does and the impact they have. If engaging with the community aligns with your brand values this also allows you to add to your brand story with social media posts, internal comms,

and blog posts. You can convey your values cross channel to attract supporters, employees, and customers.

6. Reach out to the chosen charities and speak to them about their services

a. No matter what causes you select and what you have to offer, one of the most important steps will be speaking with the prospective charities. This is the best way to get an idea of the services they offer, the volunteering and engagement opportunities that they may provide, and the associated costs/administration required. Some charities will be able to offer in-person opportunities year round, some will be seasonal. Some can offer large group slots, some may need smaller teams. Only the charity can provide you with these details.

It’s OK to come with some ideas lined up, but listening to the charity is key. They know their services best so if something will not be useful for them, listen when they convey this. It’s hard for a charity to say no to a big company sometimes, appreciate that there may be complex reasoning or compliance reasons that you aren’t aware of. If they guide you to particular ideas, it is likely because those will be the most impactful on their service, whether they work with puppies, people, or trees.

7. Engage your team in decision making

a. Once you have all the facts, loop your team back in! If there are two fantastic charities, involve your team in the decision making process to decide who to work with. Once again, this engagement and ownership will help generate more buy-in from your team once the project goes live. It’s also a sense check that your plans will be workable with the workload and commitments of your team. If your finance year ends in April you will be unlikely to have your accounts team keen for a volunteering away day in late March etc. Additionally your team may have ideas that haven’t yet occurred to you to make the most of a partnership!

8. Be flexible

a. Everyone is busy and the world is changing every day. What worked last year, may not be suitable this year. Have an open mind when it comes to the partnership and be willing to make adjustments. Maybe the charity can only support afternoon volunteering for 4 hours, but your policy allows for one calendar day of volunteering. Is this an opportunity to be flexible and adjust the policy to deliver the most support?

9. Use a multi-pronged approach

a. Try to engage with a charity on multiple levels to avoid one-off events. Charities are always grateful for fundraising, but if your team knows why they are raising funds, you will typically get a better result. We often see volunteers who come to serve at our Respite Project who then think of us when they are clearing out their clothing closets. It may not be right away, but when the chance to engage again comes back,

they know why you might need trainers or jogging bottoms for a collection so they want to be part of that solution.

10. Keep the conversation going

a. Dropping in for one day of volunteering can be incredibly useful, but over the years we have found that a sustained approach to partnership tends to generate high value for both parties. If you hopscotch from one group to the next, you may be missing out on the incredible collaborations that come from continued listening and growth. Lifeshare worked with a construction firm on their site as a partner and this started with collections for chocolates and clothing, but then later it turned out that their site was a perfect fir for our Christmas Project and they were able to not only generate value on a site that would have been closed over the holidays, but the amazing value it generated for the community led to the company, Vinci Construction, being awarded a British Construction Industry Award for the best Community Impact Initiative of the Year for the entire nation. If they hadn’t had that conversation about the need for a site, that fantastic work would have never been possible.

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