Tesco: If you need to explain it to customers then your charity partnership will fail

The Tesco National Charity Partnership, which facilitates the multi-party partnership between Tesco, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, says the key to successful charity tie-ups is simplicity.

Since Tesco aligned with Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation for a multi-party partnership three years ago, it has raised £22m in donations and seen the subsequent ‘Let’s Do This’ healthy eating campaign reach 24 million people. These donations have also helped to fund four pieces of world class research into the prevention of heart and circulatory disease.

The partnership has also manifested into new colleague-based events such as the Great Tesco Walk, with Tesco engaging with over 600,00 people thanks to community and online programmes designed to raise awareness around its two charity partners. Customers can donate to events such as the Great Tesco Walk at the point of purchase, with Tesco allowing shoppers to round their bill up to the nearest 10p at checkout.

It isn’t uncommon for a major retailer to collaborate with multiple charities. However, Jenna Hall, programme director at Tesco National Charity Partnership, a firm set up to represent all three of the partners, says the partnership has forged a new path due to creating a governance structure where each party can collaborate as if they were one organisation.

“It’s a really strong governance structure as everything is joined up,” she explains. “We have a board of senior reps from all three organisations and by having shared governance it allows us to build strong partnerships at a strategic level. Sometimes marketers think a charity partnership will succeed based off big names alone, but if the culture isn’t truly collaborative then customers will just see it as a box-ticking exercise.”

I do doubt some corporate and charity partners who go into transaction-based relationships for immediate benefits.

Jenna Hall, Tesco

Hall believes too many brands make the mistake of teaming up with charities that do not align at all with the needs of their customers.

She adds: “Even though diabetes and heart disease are very different diseases, the conditions – physical inactivity, obesity, poor diet – it needs to manifest are similar, so working with a grocery retailer to modify these behaviours and generate funds made great sense,” she explains.

“I tend to find that if you have to spend a lot of time explaining to shoppers why you’re teaming up with a charity then it will probably fail. The reasoning has to be obvious from the moment it rolls off the tongue.”

The three-year deal is almost up, with it still unclear whether Tesco will renew the three-way partnership or look for new partners. Hall, who remains coy on this process, just hopes long-term collaborations will remain key to the supermarket’s future strategy.

She concludes: “I do doubt some corporate and charity partners who go into a transactional relationship for immediate benefits. You have to buy into it for the long term to get great results and so do your customers.”