THE BLOG

The Win-Win Of Partnerships Between Businesses And Charities

23/02/2017 16:20

Today, The Prince's Trust, which I chair, will launch a new partnership with L'Oreal Paris. It is aimed at increasing the self-esteem of young people by introducing new "All worth It" confidence courses. It will enable the Trust to expand our work helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into some form of employment, education or training. As well as allowing us to grow our reach and impact, I think there is a wider message in this new-link up about the value of partnerships between business and the charitable sector.

I am a strong advocate of businesses and charities working together in constructive, creative and cooperative ways. In more recent years, some partnerships I have formed have worked particularly effectively. At Travelex, when we were interested in growing our brand presence, we were approached about an opportunity of a new initiative with the National Theatre. They wanted to offer tickets at affordable prices as well as make the institution more accessible and were looking for a company to partner with.

We had to put the negotiations on ice when the Gulf War of 2003 broke out. But I remained excited by the opportunity to partner with this iconic cultural institution. As a result, the Travelex tickets season launched in 2003 and, since then, well over 1.5million tickets at £15 or less have been sold. Most importantly, it has enabled the National to widen the demographic of its audience; typically 27% of Travelex Tickets were purchased by people visiting the National for the first time. It has also helped, to some extent, to anchor the prices of West End tickets, since theatres have tended to keep an eye on what the National is doing.

In my current business working life, I have seen the win-win of business and charities working together. Doddle, which has stores in convenient locations for customers to collect and return their online shopping, has recently started a partnership with Cancer Research UK. This is another mutually beneficial relationship, enabling more people to come into the charity's high street shops, and giving Doddle customers more choice of locations.

As a philanthropist, I assist many of the charities I work with to develop strong relationships with different companies. The Prince's Trust is an exemplar of this approach. In total, it has more than 1,200 operational and strategic partners, including 40 professional football clubs, and a number of leading corporate partnerships.

On reflection, business working side-by-side with charities is not just about corporate social responsibility. To my mind, there are three clear benefits of these partnerships. First, in an increasing complicated and fast-paced environment, neither a company nor a charity, has all the answers. For society as a whole to flourish, we need the wealth creation of business allied to the social purpose of the third sector. Second, my experience of the different types of organisations working together is that, whilst it not necessarily easy, they can improve each other's effectiveness - and can expand the skills of the employees on both sides. Third, a partnership which works well can achieve a win-win outcome. It can make charities more commercial and businesses more responsible. They can work together to widen the market of a company, which is the case in the examples I have given.

Having outlined the benefits, that is not to say every partnership is destined to succeed. There has to be a good understanding of what each party is expecting from the collaboration and the benefits for all concerned. There are certain examples that have fallen short of the mark, where a well-informed public and inquisitive media have raised legitimate concerns. In some cases, the Charity Commission has investigated specific partnerships, which have attracted strong criticism.

As we look to the future, I think the success of many organisations will rest on effective partnerships, whether in the public, private or philanthropic sectors. To quote Jon Miller and Lucy Parker in "Everybody's Business", their book advocating companies having constructive relationships with all their different stakeholders: "Companies know that business should benefit customers, employees, suppliers, neighbours and the wider world, as well as shareholders. Enduring value comes from making business work for everyone." If this is true of companies and charities, it is true of nations as well. The UK's future success will largely depend on the quality of relationships it builds with other countries, especially as it embarks on new trade deals. Partnerships with businesses are not just something for charities or sports teams, but intrinsic to the way a nation can develop and prosper.

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