TFN Blog: Working with corporate partners

This TFN blog is brought to you by ACOSVO Business Manager Andy Dey, who examines the key principles for entering into a corporate partnership.


Winning Together - Working with Corporate Partners

Working in partnership with corporate partners can offer huge opportunities to third sector organisations but how can you access the right partner and ensure yours is an organisation that they want to work with?  What makes a successful partnership?  How can you ensure the relationship is balanced with both getting value from it?  And how can you ensure interaction is less about money and more about a long-term relationship?


The Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO) is a membership organisation of over 500 third sector leaders.  ACOSVO exists to inspire, support and strengthen leaders through providing services, events and professional development, sharing best practice in a confidential space with those who’ve been there.    


Over the years, we’ve developed long-standing connections with a wide-range of corporate partners built around mutual trust and understanding.  We gain support, whether financial or through benefits in kind (HR, venue/event, legal support for example) to help us achieve our mission while the partners demonstrate commitment to the sector and help us make a difference.   


Here’s a short summation of what we believe are the essentials for successful third sector - corporate partnerships.      


What do corporate partners want from third sector organisations?

  • Professionalism - The charity’s attitude is important.  Corporates want partners who go the extra mile, show tenacity to deliver results and who are enthusiastic.  They want the third sector partner to be committed and professional in their approach.
  • A good fit - Corporates want partners who understand what they do and see how the partnership relates to their overall business objectives.  They want the third sector partner to be dependable, available when needed and to keep in touch on a regular basis. 
  • Proven track record – Organisations with a proven track record of delivering corporate partnerships are often preferred.  This reassures them the charity partner understands how to connect with the private sector and has a range of appropriate opportunities that match corporate partner needs.
  • Impact and enhanced credibility – Corporate partners want organisations who provide real benefits.  This doesn’t mean charities must make huge promises, but rather be specific and realistic about the benefits that can be delivered.  These benefits should be agreed at the beginning of the partnership, be measurable, delivered on time and reviewed regularly. 
  • Inspiration - If you want to create successful corporate partnerships it’s vital you’re able to meet the corporates expectations - they want to be inspired by the cause.  More specifically the corporate wants to see and hear examples showing how their contribution is making a difference.


What do third sector organisations want from corporates partners?

  • More support, resource and exposure – It might sound obvious, but by corporates publicising their support for a charity, awareness of your cause spreads, acting as free marketing and in turn encouraging more funding.  Initiatives such as ‘Charity of the Year’, matching gift programmes and pro bono support mean third sector organisations can hugely increase their sustainability and reach.  
  • Stable partnerships – Partnerships between companies and charities can often lead to long-term collaborations.  Whether through ongoing community projects or specific programmes created from the ground up, businesses can provide the means and resources for charities that would otherwise not have the financial mobility for such campaigns.  This work creates stability for charities while bringing attention to the cause.
  • More volunteers – Corporates that operate volunteering & support schemes provide a steady flow of volunteers and expertise for third sector partners, helping both organisations build stronger, dynamic relationships.


What do our Partners say?

"I wanted us to partner with an organisation who would help us gain further credibility and gravitas in the third sector whilst using our knowledge and expertise to help Third Sector leaders on a personal and professional level - with recruitment processes in their organisations and with their own job search.  For us, a corporate partner needed to be someone who understood Aspen and could help us make impact, whilst we could provide value added benefits for the wider third sector community."



“Through our long-standing partnership with ACOSVO, we are shaping the future of Scotland’s third sector through supporting true leadership development – a vital part of our broader CSR strategy.”


“As well as contributing to our CSR commitment and goals, our relationship with ACOSVO connects us directly with the sector, allows us to engage in a meaningful way and ensures our expertise is always available to sector leaders.”



Guidelines for “Winning Together”?  

  • Build relationships and trust gradually over time – choose potential partners carefully to ensure good fit.  Do not rush into a relationship.
  • Strive for corporate partnerships that allow both parties to enhance authority, credibility and authenticity so you have win-win dynamics.   
  • Ensure relationships are truly 2-way, businesses and third sector organisations can achieve so much more working together.
  • Ensure partnerships have the power to make a sustainable, long-term impact which is measurable – ensure you keep telling ‘the story’.
  • Meet regularly, both individually and as groups (if you have a range of partners), to ensure you are aligned, are meeting the needs of both parties and are able to horizon scan for further opportunities.


Andy Dey is Business Manager at ACOSVO where he leads their Strategic Partner Programme.


To see the official TFN article, please click here.