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Mary Gamble

Director of Fundraising, Barnardos Ireland

Businesses can help charities in different ways, be it through annual fundraising support or deeper, closer, longer-term partnerships that can have more transformational outcomes.


Companies are increasingly making charitable giving part of their CSR strategies, says Mary Gamble, Director of Fundraising at children’s charity, Barnardos Ireland. And, generally, they’re doing so in two ways.

The first involves members of staff choosing which charity their organisation should support in their Charity of the Year (COTY) vote. After a charity has been selected, the company pledges to engage with it for 12 months with different fundraising activities and other help.

“That’s great for the charity because it gives them regular cash injections throughout the year,” says Gamble. “It’s also a good way for businesses to keep their staff engaged, so it can be a beneficial two-way relationship.”

These types of internal COTY votes can be difficult to win, but bigger, more established charities aren’t necessarily at an advantage simply because they’re better known.

“Employees might choose charities that are local to them, or there might be a person within the organisation who has been affected by a particular cause, so their colleagues rally behind it,” reasons Gamble.

Growing trend for longer-term partnerships

The second – and arguably more interesting – trend in CSR charitable giving is around more formal, longer-term partnerships. “Ambitious organisations look to partner with charities for between three and five years,” explains Gamble. “Their aim is to make a massive difference to that charity.”

This type of partnership can be transformational because both organisations work closely together, sharing skills and forging deep relationships. “It’s like having another member of the team at the senior management table,” says Gamble.

“Charities have lofty ambitions and very strong visions and goals but can often lack the resources to make things happen. A partnership gives them access to expertise and skills that, normally, they would never be able to afford. When that deep, embedded, impactful relationship occurs, really exciting change happens.”

What’s in it for the company?

It’s obvious why the charity benefits. But cynics might wonder what’s in it for the company. “Businesses are not [partnering with charities] for altruistic reasons alone,” says Gamble.

“It’s proven that consumers prefer to buy from brands who display charity logos. For that reason alone, it can be valuable for them.

“Another reason is that potential employees are more discerning about where they work and are actively looking to find out more about an organisation’s CSR strategy.

Is it climate change? Is it working with animals? Is it funding health initiatives? Or is it empowering children and working to break the cycle of disadvantage? They’re asking: ‘What does this company believe in – and do I want to be part of where it’s going?’ So, a charity partnership really can be a win-win.

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