Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her platinum jubilee next year. That’s 70 years of shaking hands, cutting ribbons and making her subjects feel special. I’ve wondered how she manages to keep up the enthusiasm. Surely, she must have days when she’d rather swap the latest factory opening ceremony for an armchair, a gin and tonic and a corgi in her lap. But she gamely puts on another lovely hat and makes everyone she meets feel like they’ve had a magic moment.
It’s a challenge for charities to keep the relationship with a corporate partner fresh and engaged, especially when the partnership has been established for a while. Some partnerships are deeply entrenched, like the relationship between Royal Flying Doctor service and Ergon Energy Retail– 21 years and $16mln raised by customers and staff via their call centres.
We often talk about partnerships as a marriage, not a speed date. Assuming you made the right choice in the first place, how do you keep the marriage fresh?
Introduce them to your friends
Why do you think the Queen loves to bring William and Kate to events? It’s to give her audience something fresh to experience. If you’ve got a great personal relationship with your corporate contact, it’s tempting to keep it all to yourself. But try broadening it to include some of your other key staff, experts and ambassadors. Each of them will have a fresh perspective on your organisation and bring their passion and enthusiasm to the relationship. UNHCR, invited their key corporate partner IKEA to meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. The corporate chose some high performing staff to attend and then blog about their experience. What a fabulous way to nurture champions in your corporate partner and create excitement about the relationship.
Make it a group experience
I’m not suggesting the corporate partnership equivalent of a swingers party with keys in the fruit bowl. But corporate partners do like to see the company they keep and feel inspired by it. Essendon Football Club regularly brought their corporate partners and sponsors together to encourage networking and introductions. It became a valuable way for different businesses to share their passion and also create ways to add value to the contribution each one was making.
Bringing partners together is also a great way to share your hopes and dreams for your charity and invite them to collaborate on a solution. I did this once with a group of senior corporate leaders, asking them to think through the problem of modern slavery and human trafficking. It became almost competitive, to come up with the best solution. We ended up with a passionate and committed consortium of corporates willing to tackle one of the region’s thorniest issues.
Surprise and acknowledge them
The Queen may not need a gift, but it’s still nice to give her flowers to say thank you for turning up. Save the Children UK created an annual Partnership Awards event to recognise their corporate partners. The corporates then have valuable content to share with their staff, customers and audiences which makes their reputation shine. Compliments, thanks and recognition are key to keeping a long-term relationship warm. Don’t wait for the annual partnership review to make your corporate feel special. Tap into your creative superpower. It could be something as small as a framed picture for their lobby or a video thankyou from some of your program beneficiaries. Plan International created a gorgeous video for their partners. It showed the children in the Philippines after corporate support helped re-established homes and schools after a devastating typhoon. It’s impossible to see it and not smile.
If you’d like to make your corporate partnership last until the golden wedding anniversary, then invest a little time in the relationship to keep them fresh. Or you may find them looking to upgrade you to a younger and more eager model.