Why the trend of long term charity partnerships makes business sense

Macmillan_Claire Singlehurst 250x250You only have to look at recent headlines in the media, such as ‘British mums help save 100,000 million lives’, a result of the long-standing relationship between Pampers and UNICEF, to see how valuable the right charity partnership can be for a brand.

Increasingly, businesses recognise that working with a charity as part of a long term partnership strengthens their own reputation, drives engagement with staff and customers and brings about positive change for society. Providing a real, lasting impact for their chosen charity’s beneficiaries and supporters enables a business to better show its customers what it stands for.

Here at Macmillan, we understand the value of long term partnerships with business in helping to realise our ambition – ensuring that no one faces cancer alone. We have a team of experts and infrastructure set up to maximise impact and work at scale with corporate partners.

So what’s our record like? 11 of our 28 national corporate partnerships have run for five years or more and our longest standing, with the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), celebrated its 30th birthday this year. A number are award winning too – our Fuel Management Programme with npower has been recognised by the Third Sector Business Charity Awards, whilst our partnership with Boots UK was recipient of three awards including the prestigious Grand Prix Prize at the Corporate Engagement Awards this year – evidence that our approach is working.

Value of shared expertise

Our partnership with Boots began in 2009 and delivers joint objectives that link to the organisational priorities of both partners. Together we’ve created two new roles, Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists, and Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors so that people affected by cancer can access expert advice and support on their local high street.

“Providing a real, lasting impact for their chosen charity’s beneficiaries and supporters enables a business to better show its customers what it stands for”

Over 2,400 Boots employees have voluntarily completed training to undertake these roles, an extraordinary achievement that has only been possible because of our long-term commitment to working together to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.

And it’s win-win for both parties: Boots’ reputation as one of the UK’s leading healthcare providers is enhanced through the cancer training provided by Macmillan, whilst the reach that Boots provides to Macmillan by offering these services truly supports Macmillan’s ambition to ensure that no one has to face cancer alone.

Our expertise has enabled Boots to transform traditional ‘volunteering’ at work into an impactful support service for people affected by cancer. Our partnership has captured the hearts and minds of employees and customers to raise over £12 million for Macmillan.

Brand benefits

As well as ensuring partnerships deliver local community impact, Macmillan also focuses on enabling partners to maximise our award-winning brand for commercial benefit. This year we implemented our most ambitious sponsorship agreement ever with M&S, covering brand licensing, product promotions and an integrated sponsorship package for World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

This was in addition to the customer and employee fundraising that has driven our successful partnership since 2010. The money raised by maximising both brands’ reputations and values helps fund vital Macmillan professionals in local communities across the UK. It also helps M&S demonstrate a real impact to their employees, customers and board.

Grass roots community engagement

So, if at their most successful, long-term partnerships have their roots in community engagement, nowhere is this more apparent than Macmillan’s partnership with the NGS. The NGS have donated £15 million to Macmillan since 1985, making them our largest single donor.

Traditionally this money has funded nursing posts, but through our continued understanding of how the NGS’s vision for their own business has developed over time, we have created bespoke funding opportunities for the money the NGS raises. For example, their last annual donation was put towards building a new service in Bristol, the NGS Macmillan Wellbeing Centre, which will ensure cancer support is available for generations to come in this community.

Ultimately, successful long term partnerships between charities and businesses occur when there is a real synergy between brand values and organisational strategies. Both partners must have a clear vision and agree how they can help each other to achieve their joint business objectives. This is an exciting time for the charity sector, and one that we will continue to invest in at Macmillan in order to help the 2.5 million people in the UK currently affected by cancer.


Claire Singlehurst is Director of Regional and High Value Fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support




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