Many businesses are looking to support charities and voluntary organisations in their local area. A fantastic idea, they do it for a number of reasons including: a genuine social conscience, a personal connection with a cause, a robust and well organised Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, and a means of potentially generating future business.
Our experience at Family Gateway is that where there is a genuine personal connection with our cause, be that via the CEO of the business or employees in the company, the benefits are magnified immensely and there’s a real meeting of minds.
We’ve had a couple of really great examples of partnerships that have begun as a relatively small charitable offer by business and that have grown into meaningful agreements and resulted in mutual benefit.
One example is of a local digital marketing agency. I met the Managing Director at a business event and he was really taken by our work, our cause (I think he was shocked by the numbers) and particularly our model. At first it was hard to find a balance between maintaining the contact with a very busy professional and not being a nuisance!
Over time, the trust grew and small offers of Christmas donations for children grew into larger sponsors of holiday activities. Of course, it was very important to us to put energy and time into the business and presentations to his staff by our Family Entrepreneurs.
We are now in a position where they are a significant stakeholder, helping with social media training, infographic design and even running some summer holiday activities for us. The Managing Director doesn’t want publicity from this as he sees this as disingenuous – this for me reflects the fact that this is genuine CSR, from the heart, and reflects the culture of this amazing organisation.
Another example is a large international company with local offices who chose to commission us for some action research family support work. They’ve taken us under their arm, recognising that we are small and don’t have the pull of some other larger charities to gain funds and support.
Their support ranges from donations of PCs, sponsorships in their local fun run and a volunteering day involving 17 of their international directors who came to transform our garden at Howdon Hub. A larger organisation maybe, but still the culture of CSR runs through it via a dedicated volunteering team and a Project Manager.
Whilst I can be a bit sceptical about corporate volunteering where it seems to be purely for the purposes of a nice glossy photograph and some PR, it is so reassuring that local companies, large and small, genuinely care about their local communities. More than that, we have been able to raise awareness of the scandal of family and child poverty amongst employees who were unaware of the fact that poverty is possibly only a few streets away from their home.
It takes time and effort on both sides to get the right mix and fit, but the mutual rewards can be significant and long lasting.