You can’t whistle a symphony

Proportion
Categories: Blog

“You can’t whistle a symphony. You need the whole orchestra”. H.E. Luccock

I miss live music. Lockdowns have left me craving the thrill of being in a live audience with the music about to start. Just a few weeks ago I watched my son play in his university orchestra.  During a lively moment in Mendelssohn’s violin concerto the conductor got so excited she dropped her baton into the cello section. Without missing a beat, the orchestra continued playing. It struck me that the audience wasn’t there to be entertained by the conductor. In fact, she was the only one not making a sound. It was the individual and collective efforts of each musician that created the magic.

In our changing world, the latest research from the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that employees are now the most important stakeholder for business. Whilst employees state that ‘my employer’ is now the most trusted institution, they have high expectations of business to earn that trust. The shift in power towards employees opens up new opportunities for charities seeking corporate partnerships. Here’s why.

The post COVID war for talent

If the violin section gets up and leaves, then the orchestra will have a huge gap. (Possibly not the case for the violas, but that’s just prejudice from the first violins!) During COVID employees have had the time to rethink old ways of working and don’t want to go back to long hours, micro-management, lack of flexibility and lack of diversity.  In return for loyalty and trust, employees are demanding that work serves their needs for skills, learning, family and financial goals. One senior HR manager tells me that they are budgeting for an average employee tenure of 2 years or less in the future.

How can you work with corporate partners to help solve their war for talent? Volunteering can help to build goodwill among employees. However, it’s more than just the sugar hit of a day out of the office. How can you work with a corporate to help them invest meaningfully in the wellbeing of their workforce? Beyond Blue and Black Dog are doing this really well with workplace resources for improved mental health. A children’s charity has provided resources and support on parenting whilst other health charities are addressing the physical wellbeing of staff during stressful times.

Think about this important business challenge and how you can be the solution. Dig into your core expertise and use it to meet the human needs of a business’ employees. Then you’ll present a much more compelling proposition for a corporate than just philanthropy.

The expectations of societal action

The Edelma research states that 8 in 10 employees expect their company to act on societal issues. They want action on the big issues like pay equality, climate change, inclusion and diversity. They are hopeful about change and 64% expect that the COVID pandemic will lead to valuable innovations and changes for the future. But businesses can’t solve societal problems on their own. That’s where your charity steps in.

Whilst the orchestral conductor may not make a sound, she is vital to make all the individual players perform together. If they are going to take on an ambitious piece, it needs commitment, teamwork and expertise. Could your charity be the star player? Try to imagine Nessun Dorma played by an orchestra without Pavarotti. It wouldn’t get the audience on its feet without him.

By combining what you do best with the resources, ambitions and capabilities of your corporate partner you can achieve so much greater impact for society. Look at the partnership between Boots UK and HESTIA that leveraged the corporate’s enormous retail footprint to offer support to people experiencing domestic violence during COVID lockdowns. Similarly the partnership between Tesco and World Wildlife Fund to halve the environmental impact of a typical shopping basket.

Employees have big ambitions for their employer. Your charity can be the means to a corporate meeting those expectations and making the societal impact that their staff and their customers are demanding. You need to put aside the traditional fundraising approach to partnerships and start thinking about how you can solve the big issues that are facing business in a post COVID world.

The orchestra is tuning up. Can you help the conductor win a standing ovation?

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