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Stellar Partnerships

Stellar Partnerships: Corporate & Community Partnership

Hello from the other side: CSL

What does a corporate partner want? It’s the million-dollar question. To make your life easier we’ve recently been hosting chats with people from the corporate side of the table so you can hear from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) what’s important to them. This week we’re sharing the insights from Patrick at CSL. CSL is a global biotech company and one of Australia’s biggest success stories, with profits of over $2.2bln last year. CSL loves innovation and has great experience working in partnership.

Hi Patrick, tell us about you
I currently oversee our sustainability efforts. I’ve been with the company for over 14 years and started out essentially implementing our corporate social responsibility program in Australia. And from there, many years ago, to being involved in reporting and now ultimately developing our sustainability strategy and execution of our group-wide, enterprise-wide sustainability strategy. So I’ve had various other kinds of roles over time. Compliance, ethics, and also at some point managed the development of our annual report, as well as our sustainability report. I’ve also been involved in the set-up of some research and development partnerships that we have with the community.

Partnerships have changed, quite dramatically over the past few years with the introduction of ESG. How are you going with the transition?
Yes, it has had many incarnations. It’s always been ESG from the beginning. There was a period when E was a very big focus, particularly in Australia in 2009 when we had droughts and disastrous bushfires. There was a big focus on the E (environmental) and there was governance around the E then although it was set under a CSR umbrella. The ‘S’ portion of community partnerships has moved away from sponsorship and philanthropy to partnerships that are strategic at a shared value perspective. It is absolutely less of the set-and-forget contribution to more of the multi-year long-term partnerships that drive value and benefits for both partners in the relationship. Its less about the branding and the promotion that was typically associated with philanthropy 101. There is still value in that but now the mix has changed.

For the S part with those in-depth and more authentic relationships that you’re now developing, how do they fit into your overarching community strategy?
We have had a community investment framework for a very long time. It has three areas where we will typically engage and invest in community related partnerships.
First, is we support patient communities and that’s generally patient groups in the therapeutic areas that we serve. We have a strong focus as an organisation on science and innovation and that’s largely around fostering the next generation of medical researchers, but also making sure the research and development ecosystem is thriving. This is both around building skills and capability and making sure we have a pipeline of talent for ourselves but also that the medical research community has a pool of talent that they can rely on.
Then we also invest in the ecosystem itself by providing support and grants for medical researchers, laboratory space for collaboration across all the regions that we operate in.
And the third is support for local communities, both in disaster relief/ humanitarian aid and in engaging our employees in volunteering and financial giving.
You have a local community grant round open at the moment. What do you look for in these kind of local community partners and how many applications do you expect to receive?
So I actually launched that program back in 2013. We had a new general manager he wanted to bring more of the community and some of the community issues into the workplace so that employees have a perspective of what was going on in and around where they work. The grants focus on areas of need that are informed by the local city council. Then organisations can apply for a one off $25K but there are no restrictions about repeat applications. An employee group does the short listing based on a set criteria. Two shortlisted organisations then go to an employee vote and the one which gets the most votes is the recipient for the grant. Over the next 12 months we try to support them from a volunteering perspective, such as pro-bono legal support from our Australian based legal operations.

What advice do you have for charities about how they should interact with an organisation like yourselves?
It’s really simple, don’t just send us a proposal without speaking to us. Get to know us a little bit more and find out where we’re heading, who we are, and what our focus areas are. Most of the information is online and yet it’s quite amazing how many requests we get that just don’t align with who we are as an organisation. We’ve even had some very large organisations send us proposals like that. We’ve gone back to them and said look let’s have a conversation, get to know each other and understand what your objectives are.
We explain to them where we’re heading and what the timelines are in terms of receiving proposals and how we review them. You need to pick your moments, understand what the timeframes are for proposals and when the budget cycle is. We’re happy to share that information because those are key prerequisites for making a decision. We know it can sometimes be hard to get in contact with someone at an organisation but we do a pretty good job at triaging requests and passing them on to individuals.

I love that you’ve mentioned ensuring your timing is right for an approach and aligns with budget cycles. When is the best time for an organisation to approach you?
We start very early. We start our budget cycle at the start of the calendar year for the next financial year. So that’s the best time to get in touch with us, towards the end of the calendar year of the previous year October through December. If you have something that is substantive and multiyear, it might even be a little bit earlier. You’re probably best to plan well ahead, so a year before your planned implementation.
The other advice is that we very much like working with community partners to solve problems and that means designing programs that work for both of us. When you’re designing a program, you need to get to know the partner and understand what their capabilities are. That’s a really exciting space to be in but that takes time.

Thanks Patrick for your insights!
Over the coming months, Stellar will be bringing tips and perspectives from a range of corporates to help non-profits seeking new partners. To win new partners you need to start with understanding their priorities and pain points.