May 7th, 2020

The future of corporate partnerships

Do you believe there’s untapped potential in Corporate Partnerships? We asked the leaders of Partnerships teams from 15 of the biggest UK charities, and everyone said a resounding yes.

There’s a collective ambition across the sector to move beyond the traditional charity of the year relationships towards partnerships that focus on delivering mission and money in equal measure. The 15 charities we spoke to are all at different stages of this journey. Through the interviews we identified the different conditions in organisations at either end of the scale. 

Levels 4 and 5 aren’t utopian dreams, it’s happening already. Oxfam’s partnership with Burberry talks about ‘moving beyond audit to impact’, tackling complex issues of workers rights, wellbeing and wages across the supply chain. WWF’s partnership with Tesco partnered on their collective ambition to make affordable, healthy, sustainable food available to everyone. WWF’s Panda Labs is another great example of tackling ‘moonshot global challenges’ through collaborations between different organisations working in partnership with local communities.  

These partnerships look at change at a systems level, leveraging the unique assets and capabilities of each organisation. Working together, charities and corporates can be more than the sum of their parts, and the impact they can have is enormous. 

So what would it mean for the sector if we saw more examples like this? What’s holding charities back? And what impact will the current crisis have on making this happen? 

We’ve seen more and more corporates leverage their capabilities to support the NHS and the public. And new collaborations have formed between the private, public and social sector like the technology and manufacturing industries working with the NHS to make ventilators. 

On the one hand you could argue the current crisis has the potential to accelerate charities moving towards more strategic partnerships and systems level collaborations. But it’s not as easy as that. In some cases, it might make this change harder to achieve. 

Last week we ran a webinar with 50 charities across the sector to discuss these questions and share back what we heard in the interviews. We also had speakers from Google, Facebook, Liverpool FC and giffgaff to hear the other side of the story.

The 15 charities we interviewed highlighted these 5 common barriers to realising the untapped potential in partnerships, and during the webinar we discussed whether the current crisis could either alleviate or amplify them. These discussions further highlighted the collective belief across the sector that there’s a huge amount of untapped potential in the Partnerships space, but it’s not going to be easy to realise it. 

These are testing times for everyone, not least charities. Traditional revenue streams aren’t growing in the way they used to, but the demand for your programmes and services is going up. If partnerships were able to deliver aspects of a charity's mission, this could in turn reduce the pressure to generate new income. Corporate Partnerships teams have a vital role to play in making this happen by creating more partnerships and collaborations that deliver mission and money in equal measure.