Cross-sector partnerships, and the wider world of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), is often seen as the domain of big companies – the use of the word ’corporate’ doesn’t help! However, at thirdbridge we know that small businesses have just as much to offer charities as big corporates and, crucially, have just as much to gain.
The key concern for many small businesses is how to sustain and grow their organisation. The two crucial components to achieving growth are attracting and retaining customers, and building the right team. It just so happens that partnering with a charity can give a massive boost to a company’s reputation that can lead to gaining new customers and attracting new staff. It’s one of the key reasons that bigger companies invest so much in charitable partnerships, and we want to help small companies understand and take advantage of the opportunity too.
Through our work at thirdbridge, we have seen some fantastic examples of small and medium companies coming together with small and medium charities to have a really positive, mutually-beneficial relationship. We have summarised some of these to provide examples that we hope will inspire others.
1) Support a cause:
- Campaign against the closure of a local hospital or library:
A local printing company supported a successful campaign run by a small literacy charity to stop the closure of a local library. They did this by providing PR contacts in local media, giving financial support to put adverts in the local paper and on local radio stations, printing leaflets, and encouraging their customers to back the campaign.
2) Provide operational support:
- Help charities navigate legal issues and contracts:
A local chartered surveyor reviewed the lease renewal of a small charity to ensure that the lease conditions were robust, in the best interests of the charity, and legally sound.
3) Improve company operations:
- Reduce waste in your production process (and reduce your environmental impact):
A local clothing manufacturer creates one-off clothing lines with material offcuts, supplying them to a local homeless charity who either pass them directly to the beneficiaries they work with, or sell them through their online store to raise funds. Staff spend the last 2 hours on a Friday afternoon working on the charity lines (and the factory is also open on a Saturday morning for any staff who wish to spend more time working on the lines). An annual fashion show is now planned that will help to raise further funds for the charity.
4) Sponsor a local event:
- Ensure a local event is a success:
A local business sponsors a local village fete, paying for catering and a local band to perform. The business also encouraged employees to volunteer to help set up the various stalls and the marquee on the day.
5) Raise funds and volunteer:
- Get involved in a team challenge fundraising event:
A team of IT consultants and project managers formed teams to participate in a dragon boat racing challenge to raise money for a local charity that helps older people to get online and connect with relatives overseas. This led to a number of the employees volunteering with the charity in their evenings, teaching older people how to use video calling technology.
6) Develop a new service:
- Help isolated old people visit friends and relatives:
A taxi firm partners with a local hospice to offer free rides to elderly visitors who have no other means to get to the hospice to see their loved ones. The taxi rides are booked and organised by the hospice on behalf of the elderly passengers.
7) Deliver a programme:
- Support young people to find employment:
An HR recruitment firm partners with a local charity that helps young unemployed people from disadvantaged backgrounds into work. The company offers summer internships in their offices (and with some of their clients), interview training skills, CV-writing workshops, and pairing up some of the young people with a mentor from the company.
8) Invest in a social enterprise:
- Help refugees start a business:
A local accountancy firm provides seed funding to a social enterprise that is giving financial skills training to refugees who are setting up their own businesses. Some of the businesses have since become paying clients of the accountancy firm as their businesses have grown.
Doing good really is good for business. It can help a smaller company to improve their reputation and visibility in a local community. In turn, this can help them both gain new customers and attract and retain staff – individuals generally like to work for a company that has a positive reputation. Furthermore, many B2B companies that are in the supply chain of larger corporates find it much easier to win contracts as larger companies strive to achieve their own social responsibility targets by selecting suppliers that are having a positive social and environmental impact.
We hope the above examples help inspire more small businesses to partner with charities for mutual benefit. Identifying a mutual benefit is a great way to ensure that such relationships are long-term and sustainable – resulting in increased positive impact.
Please note: If you are already working with a charity we would love to hear from you so we can continue to add to our examples and help inspire more companies – please get in touch.
Blog written by Rick Benfield, CEO of thirdbridge