Connecting charities and local businesses

Local businesses have the potential to offer practical support to small charities that goes beyond unlocking new sources of funding. They often hold valuable skills, knowledge and experience in areas that can support charities’ development and might be otherwise out of reach. 

Woman in branch at a Lloyds Bank Branch, she is smiling, and wearing a green neck scarf

Since 2014 we've been working with Lloyds Banking Group to connect them with small and local charities. Through this partnership, bank colleagues have shared their skills and expertise to support charities. This skills-based volunteering has led to charities getting help to grow stronger and more resilient while also helping bank colleagues feel more connected to their local community.

Over the years we’ve seen these relationships develop into long term partnerships that help to improve services for local people facing complex social issues. Having seen the benefits of this we have now started to extend this work to the wider business community locally. Finding ways to work together can be mutually beneficial for charities and businesses. Local businesses have specialist skills and knowledge and will often serve the same people charities work with.

While engaging with charities can help businesses develop stronger ties to their own communities, find ways of supporting the diverse needs of their customers and stretch their own skills.

We’ve already begun this work in four of the six areas our People and Communities work is focused on. This involved discussion with small charities about what support they were looking for from the business community.  Many charities reported that they didn’t know what support could be available and so we focused our work on helping charities to identify what kind of support they would like, develop the ‘ask’ and investigate ways that could become mutually beneficial.

The work started as a pilot in Telford with an initial workshop designed to showcase successful local charity and business partnership stories and inspire charities to broaden their view of business support beyond donations alone. By discussing and exploring these partnership stories with both the business and charity involved, charities began to see the opportunities available by building relationships, but where the relationship - not the money - is the focus. Charities were able to identify skills gaps and where they lacked confidence in approaching potential business partners.

In response we delivered a further programme of workshops that helped charities explore:

  • Communication and raising their profile
  • Effective networking (including virtually)
  • Business partnerships – mutual benefit and collaboration
  • Building and maintaining the relationship
  • Using LinkedIn to build relationships

The work has helped to motivate interest on both sides, particularly in helping charities to approach businesses with clear ‘asks’ that include skills-based volunteering opportunities. 

The workshops have been positively received and the corporates and SMEs involved have valued the insights gained from hearing first-hand the challenges that small charities face in the current climate. This work has facilitated some useful discussions with businesses looking for fresh approaches to facilitate skills-based volunteering within the workplace, including virtual volunteering opportunities.

For those charities wanting to take their learnings from the workshops and begin forging these vital business connections, we have been able to offer ongoing support through mentoring, coaching and providing a space to sound out ideas.

The programme has inspired small charities to see that working with the business community is an opportunity for all and not one that is unique to large charities and corporations. 

Learn about our work with Lloyds Banking Group

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