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Stellar Partnerships

Stellar Partnerships: Corporate & Community Partnership

What to do if your partner has no budget

The Royal Family aren’t short of a dollar or two. It must be nice to have the crown jewels in storage for a rainy day. But the Royals are well known for some frugal habits such as re-using gift wrap, keeping outfits for decades and turning the lights off in unused rooms. Probably a sizeable contribution to climate change adaptation when your house has 700+ rooms. It’s fair to say they have budget but prioritise where to spend it.

It’s the same issue with corporates. Each one has income, but when they say they have no budget for partnerships, what they really mean is they are prioritising other things. It might be a case of not wanting a partnership with you or investing their money in a different way to create social impact.

In challenging economic times, like the GFC in 2008, corporates were reluctant to commit significant funds to community partnerships as they were uncertain about the future. In 2023 we are seeing a similar purse tightening and reluctance to spend. The difference is that corporates are being driven by the demands of ESG and the public to demonstrate that they are supporting the community through tough times. They need to show social impact but want to do so cheaply.

If your corporate prospect tells you they have no budget, what should you do?

Corporate leadership or board might be cautious about partnerships commitments from their core corporate budgets but they always love the opportunity to spend other people’s money. Here are some ways to get the impact you both want without breaking the piggy bank.

Staff giving

Cancer Council’s Biggest Morning Tea is only one example of getting untied income from corporate partners. Some companies choose the match the funds raised but in general the bulk of funds come from staff fundraisers, not the company. Corporate partnerships are deepened by the active participation and support of employees, whether with existing events or self-driven initiatives. The impact is multiplied when employees are converted to regular givers through workplace giving programs. The company gets to talk about the impact of their employees’ time, money and volunteering efforts without troubling the corporate budget too much. But corporates should beware of over reliance on staff giving to meet their ESG metrics. Staff are savvy about whether the company is making an authentic commitment to the cause and can be your best advocates in getting the CFO to open his corporate wallet.

Customer giving

There are a number of ways in which corporates get customers to do the heavy lifting for them. Cause marketing or purchase triggered donations are a perennial favourite, as are in-store or online round ups at the point of sale. It’s a win-win for the company and the customers who are looking for purpose driven brands that align with their personal values. The Body Shop have run a number of authentic cause campaigns from combating female homelessness to Out for Love focusing on LGBTIQ+ young people.

Cause marketing can also improve customer relationships, and dramatically increase customer loyalty. Remember, increasing a customer’s loyalty by just 7% can increase lifetime profits per customer by as much as 85%. Plus, loyal customers are more likely to purchase repeatedly; increasing retention of only 5% of customers can result in increased revenue of 25% to a whopping 95%. Corporates get to sell more products and your non-profit gets the benefit of accessing their customer networks without blowing their budget.


Amart Furniture has been a long-standing partner of Ronald MacDonald House Charities. Every year Amart hosts a big event with all of its suppliers and encourage them to make a significant donation. As the suppliers are all keen for their products to be included in the Amart range, there is a lively bidding war to be seen as the most generous. Tapping into the wallets of a company’s supply chain can be a great way to augment partnership income or provide a buffer when the company itself is in a budget squeeze.

In-kind support

Wildlife VIC rescues and cares for injured wildlife. When they partnered with Yarra Trams they got a tram wrapped with messaging to raise awareness of injured wildlife on the roads. They were also able to tap into the deep relationships of Yarra Trams with TAC and its media agencies. Their combined efforts created a multimedia campaign including TV commercials, with messages translated into several languages. The total value ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind support and enabled the organisation to achieve enormous reach across the community.

During COVID lockdowns Camp Quality were unable to run their usual camps for families and children affected by cancer. Their partnership with Fujitsu enabled the development of an app and online tools to support children and families and given them the information they needed about cancer.  It created social impact far beyond a cash donation.

So, when a corporate partner tells you they have no budget, it’s not the end of the opportunity. Opening up new avenues with staff, customers, suppliers and in-kind support will enable you to go beyond the current financial constraints and fully leverage the value of the partnership for both of you. They won’t have to turn the lights off to support you and you can keep the relationship active through bumpy economic times.