Your article “Dangerous Associations” (MW May 2) raises interesting questions, but suggests some naiveté about charities and the brands with whom they work.
“Corporate social responsibility” is no longer just a buzz phrase, but a key element of every major marketing strategy. For charities, corporate partnerships represent an important and high-profile way to communicate their messages and raise funds for their work. For companies, they create differentiation and engage their consumers. However, boosting reputation or sales requires thorough research, monitoring and evaluation if a partnership is to be sustainable.
Charity brands are as sophisticated and dynamic as any corporate brand. Like their commercial cousins, they are acutely aware that one mistake not only affects their reputation with funders, but more importantly with service users, Government and the media.
The best charity partnerships go further than just product branding. They involve an understanding that, if customers are to trust a brand as they do their favourite charity, then they’ll probably demand some proof that the association is more than skin deep.
Your article quotes Shelter’s relationship with Bradford & Bingley. Shelter’s partnership with them not only includes donations, but massive employee involvement, marketing of its services to those in most need and sponsorship of its work to lobby for long-term change in housing law. Shelter shares objectives and risks, commercial and reputational, and the longevity of the partnership shows that it is working.
Marketing managers wishing to work with charities are increasingly aware that a charity logo alone will not make products fly off the shelves. However, being able to prove that you are committed to addressing an issue that affects your staff, customers and shareholders is a step on the road to loyalty.
Charities must also understand that it is their obligation not to say “yes” to every offer that comes their way. But when they can work with partners, which share their objectives and can become enthused about the work, their hearts will surely follow.
Deputy director of fundraising