Up For Adoption

With corporate funding of worthy causes in decline, charities are having to compete for sponsorship deals. Jo

Despite the hype about the caring Nineties, it seems that big corporations have decided that caring comes at too high a price. Figures show that during 1993 to 1994 there was a 10.7 per cent (Charities Aid Foundation) drop in corporate support for charities.

Charities are having to drop their warm images and fight their corners to get corporate backing.

It is no longer the case that the company chairman ponders which charities best suits his tastes and then magnanimously offers his company’s services. Often a raft of charities are approached by a company and asked to pitch for the business. They are expected to prove what tangible benefits they will bring to the partnership.

Cadbury took this approach a few years ago when it asked a number of child-related charities to present their credentials and propose what they could do for Cadbury. Save The Children won the account. Other charities which also support the work of children spent money trying to win the business.

But it would appear that charities are welcoming this competitive environment.

Barnardo’s head of corporate relations Niels de Vos says: “Charities have let themselves down in the past when they have promised companies the moon and then taken the money and run. They didn’t service their clients as they should have. Now both the charity and potential partner must know what they are offering, and what they are going to get.”

He says the charity link-up is being divided into two areas. The first is the traditional marketing partnership. This usually involves the charity’s logo being seen on a particular product but does not offer the client much more than warm feelings.

“Corporate adoptions offer far more and can turn out to be a proper partnership between the two,” says de Vos.

One of the major company benefits of a charity adoption is the ability to include staff in the partnership. Although it may not boost the bottom line, it certainly brings benefits in the form of motivated and interested staff.

“Barnardo’s USP is that it has a vast regional network and 1 million supporters on its books. In the case of an adoption where a regional company may get involved in a local fundraising drive, it can tie up with the local Barnardo’s operation without feeling that it is dealing with a head office miles away,” says de Vos. “And increasingly with staff motivation packages, the staff like to feel that the money is being used locally.”

A charity’s database also presents business opportunities for the companies involved. During Barnardo’s house-to-house week, which is similar to Christian Aid week, the charity appeals to 10 million households. “This is a brilliant opportunity for companies to get involved in product trials. It doesn’t just have to be a matter of companies putting their names on our envelopes. If companies really think about it, the sponsorship can be more than just a public relations-led promotion,” says de Vos.

Barnardo’s also segments its database of 1 million supporters so that the adoptive company is not just presented with a mass of potential customers but also knows exactly who they are and where they live.

Although its not easy to calculate in financial terms, the publicity opportunities that arise from these link-ups cannot be ignored.

In the case of Barnardo’s, the charity persuaded electrical retailer Comet – which had never adopted a charity before – to sponsor its 150th anniversary balloon race this year. Comet is providing the prizes and will have their name on everything that moves. The benefit of the expected national TV coverage is incalculable.

The Co-Operative Bank – given its unique positioning in the sector – finds itself inundated with proposals from charities seeking a partnership. One of the bank’s main partner charities is Christian Aid, which it sponsors for 150,000 a year. It is about to renew its contract with the charity for another three years.

During Christian Aid Week 17 million envelopes carrying the bank’s endorsement are pushed through people’s letter boxes. The association is developed through all other literature produced for the occasion and national TV ads.

Christian Aid head of publishing and marketing Nick Isles says the bank has access to what he calls a sizable market of relatively affluent supporters who are predisposed to the values of the Co-Operative Bank. The bank has access to a large number potential customers for a relatively small amount of money.

Co-Operative Bank publicity director Dave Smith says the bank has increased its membership through this link-up. “Christian Aid has 25,000 supporters who are ABC1 and aged 35 to 54. This is a very good profile from the bank’s point of view. Plus, each local Christian Aid branch has a bank account and all the churches involved in Christian Aid also have bank accounts, so the fit is first class.”

The bank’s most successful charity link-ups have been through the issuing of charity credit cards. The first of these was launched in 1988 in partnership with the RSPB. So far the card has raised 1.5m for the charity. The bank pays the RSPB 5 for every card it issues and contributes 25p for every 100 spent on each card.

Since then, Amnesty International, Help the Aged, Feed the Children and Oxfam have all linked up with the Co-Operative Bank through credit/debit cards.

Smith says: “With cards everyone is a winner. The charity gets money and we get a new customer.”

UNICEF head of corporate fundraising Claire Williams says marketers must look beyond the begging bowl if they are to recognise the commercial potential of an organisation. “For example, next February more than 6,000 schools in the UK will take part in UNICEF’s National Non-Uniform Day. It is designed to inform children about the lives of children in developing countries and encourage them to take part in fundraising events.

“More than 1.3 million children, their teachers and parents took part last year. That’s more than 1.3 million opportunities to deliver an extremely positive brand message and to make a direct offer.

“There is huge potential for a brand owner to run a classic sales promotion in association with its major retail customers through a day like this. That is besides the potential for major PR exposure,” says Williams.

Similarly, UNICEF’s Scheme, a programme designed to raise rates of breast feeding in the UK, provides a potential sponsor with access to a minimum of 12,000 healthcare professionals – and through them more than 15 per cent of pregnant women in England and Wales.

NSPCC head of corporate fundraising Ian McClaren says he tells companies not to donate money to the charity, but rather to invest in it. “We believe we can turn 1 into 4, as well as increase sales for the client,” he says. He cites a recent Mori survey which showed that 79 per cent of consumers would rather choose a brand that was seen to be supporting the community.

McClaren says that in promotions with Bisto (the NSPCC developed the Bisto Kid), Unigate and Single Server there was always a clear demonstration of increased sales for the client.

Recently the NSPCC teamed up with the Yorkshire Building Society – after pitching against five other charities for the business – to launch a new young savers account. It was the first ever charity-linked children’s savings programme and led to 15,000 accounts being opened in the first year.

Barnardo’s de Vos says these short-term marketing partnerships are on the decline and that more long-term adoption schemes are being favoured. “If we do a big sales promotion with Nescafé, we certainly could not get involved with any of their competitors after that. These kinds of campaigns are very limited, particularly for the charity.”

“And although with corporate sponsorships or adoptions you could have only one in each brand category, a charity can really have as many sponsors as it likes,” he says.

He also sees charities taking on more consultancy roles to help companies build their business. “I’ve got people in my department who would not be out of place in any of the leading ad agencies.”

The big operations have certainly come a long way from the old days, when they were more likely to be the impoverished clients than the professional advisers.v

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