Last week I had a long and very enjoyable conversation with Wendy from Well Connected – a community wellbeing charity operating in the south-west. I have several dental clients who want to use their skills and time to make a difference locally through providing oral health education, and Wendy was helping me understand the best ways for them to do that, and how Well Connected’s fantastic resources could be useful.
I will be introducing clients to Wendy in the coming weeks and hope to establish simple partnerships that mean the dental practices will make great use of their time and resources, Well Connected will be able to fulfil their mission through additional partners, and that the communities around my clients’ practices will benefit.
Not everyone is able to bring in a specialist to help with this kind of work, but setting up a charity partnership successfully is a crucial part of any good CSR plan. So here are five things to bear in mind if you are starting work with a new charity and need some guidance.
1. Make sure you’ve chosen the right kind of cause first
Evidence shows that your team and your patients will be more engaged with your CSR if you choose a charity that makes sense, either because of your geographical proximity to the charity or its connection to the industry you are in. You may have an unrelated cause that you are personally connected with that you’re passionate about, but unless you’re able to communicate very clearly why that cause has an authentic link, you may be better choosing a charity that makes more obvious sense.
2. Be clear with the charity about what you want to do for them
It’s always a good idea to make the charity aware of what you plan to do, and to be clear about your fundraising target, the amount of time you can commit or your planned activity. Most charities will want to help you maximise the success of the fundraising and can also help with ideas and support.
3. Be realistic about what you expect to achieve
Of course, charities are grateful for any funds they receive, but you need to be realistic about what it is fair to expect from your chosen charity. They have limited and over-stretched resources, so make sure that the level to which you are making resources available to them matches up with what you are asking for in return.
4. Follow through on your commitments
It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. Promising a high donation or amount of volunteering and failing to achieve it is demoralising for the charity and your team. By all means, aim high, but don’t over-promise. And make sure you are committed to running the event or making staff time available to volunteer and you follow through. Use the charity’s fundraising expertise to advise you on how to raise the most money, and follow their advice if you are working with someone like Well Connected who work in the community. Use the opportunity to educate your patients and the local community about the issues the charity tackles and raise their profile.
5. Extract value from the charity relationship
By all means, promote what you do to the outside world. The more successful you are as a business, the more potential you have to create benefit for charities and good causes. So communicate what you’re doing externally and internally.
6. Partner strategically
If you can, commit to working with a charity for a period of time. Build a relationship. Look to include your charity activity as part of your business plan – the impact for your business and the charity is biggest when it isn’t a one-off event, but something that is incorporated in the life of the business. If what you’re planning is going to a have a significant impact on the charity, pull them in on your planning. If not, plan it and tell them what you’re doing so they can find ways to help you succeed. They may be able to provide tried and tested ways to engage your team and patients.
7. Look for other ways to add value
There are many ways to benefit the charity other than funds. Look for other ways to give back, like donating your time or expertise, like BACD’s excellent whitening drive, where they used donated product and gave their time to carry out whitening treatments. The fee paid by the patient went to charity. You can also help by giving the charity profile through your communications and press releases – anything that drives traffic to their websites is useful. Or introduce the charity to your network to widen its support base. There are many ways to add value beyond money.
Working with charities can give fantastic focus for your team, boost your profile, and raise money for good causes. Include these 7 keys in your planning, and you’ll maximise the impact for your business, and the charity you care about.
Getting started with CSR is simple – download my free ’60 Minute CSR Plan’ which will help you understand the basics and make a start in just one lunch hour.