Posted by Katie Buchanan, Head of Sustainability, Virgin Media
The Future of Charity Partnerships
27 November 2018
I’ve spent the last three years living and breathing all things charity. Back in 2015 we had 27 charities that we supported. They were employee selected and ranged from a local hospice to a pets charity. To ensure we were doing our bit we had 31 charity champions whose job it was to rally our people, manage the relationship with the charity and to ultimately pay in the cash.
It became clear to me that this model was flawed. There was very little corporate support or awareness of the grass roots activity by the Execs and ultimately governance was near on impossible.
Evidently things had to change and we needed to focus on improving our social impact. Charity partnerships should no longer just be about employee engagement or quite frankly having fun.
In order to do this we spoke to our people and customers to understand what our area of focus should be. The theme of facilitating independence rang true and to cut a long story short, we partnered with disability equality charity, Scope to transform the lives of disabled people.
We’ve been working with Scope for the past three years and now united around one strategic cause; we want to support 1 million disabled people to get into and stay in work by the end of 2020.I believe that on their own, governments, public sector and charitable organisations simply do not have the capabilities and resources to solve the big social issues they exist to solve. This is where business comes in as a force for good - with platforms, people and powerful brands to change attitudes and fund solutions.
I know some hold the view that in the future big businesses may remove charities altogether – cutting out the middle man if you like - and go directly to the cause. This could take the form of setting up a foundation or fund that’s managed in-house. But the reality is that some companies may face that with scepticism.
The answer however has to lie in more collaboration. This is where policy makers, charities, businesses work together with a clear purpose and very clear goals. In order to do this, I think charities need to modernise, pick up the pace and adapt their ways of working.
Last week I presented at the Charity Win Win Conference, I was surprised to hear of the pain charities are still experiencing about trying to win corporate votes as a way to secure a charity partnership. I hope the future lies in charities and corporates partnering on skillsets and strategic issues, not just because of an employee vote.
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