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Supporters changing lives

How is the charity of the year selection process evolving?

For both charities and corporates, the Charity of the Year selection process can take months. Bonnie Clayton , who has 20 years’ experience as a fundraiser and fundraising consultant, talks about why the process developed, how it works and what’s changing.

Q. How has the Charity of the Year partnership process developed?

A. Around 10 years ago it was mainly big retailers using staff votes to select a charity partner. In the last five to 10 years, more companies have adopted this approach. Before that, most companies selected the charity themselves. Now, the general Corporate Social Responsibility agenda is about employee involvement and companies want to get their staff involved in the process of selecting causes. Big companies are approached by lots of different charities all the time. Selecting one or two charities to support helps them focus their efforts.

Q. Do employees like the democratic vote?

A. In my experience, successful partnerships have developed from staff votes because employees feel ownership over the cause. Now, some organisations like Deutsche Bank are going a step further and asking their employees to put forward charities for the shortlist before the vote even takes place. This can make it tricky for charities if they don’t have a contact within the company to nominate them. But charities can use their social media presence and networks to encourage staff to vote for them.

Bonnie Clayton

Q. Do staff who don’t vote for the winning charity feel demotivated at all?

A. I think it’s the quality of the fundraising opportunities that motivates staff to get involved once the charity has been selected, not so much what the cause is. So even if it’s not a charity that is dear to their heart, if the events on offer are really fun or unique, employees want to get involved. That’s why charities need to come up with exciting and different types of fundraising and challenge events when they pitch for Charity of the Year partnerships. More companies are also now offering small grant schemes or matched giving so employees can support other charities who aren’t the Charity of the Year.

Q. In your experience, do charities think that the process is fair?

A. Yes, I think so. Applying for a Charity of the Year can be a lot of work but these partnerships are almost a Holy Grail for a corporate fundraiser. A savvy one would be very selective about which they apply for and have conversations with the company to make sure they are a fit. They’d attend company question and answer sessions to get tips on eligibility and submitting proposals. I’ve noticed that some companies are offering donations to the charities that are shortlisted which is a nice gesture. It would be good if more companies did that.

Q. What’s the future for the Charity of the Year partnership process?

A. Companies are extending partnerships to two years, as it can often take six months to get a partnership properly started, and they’re giving themselves at least nine months to start the selection process. Another trend is that charities increasingly need to show they can provide engaging volunteering opportunities for employees. This can be tricky for some charities who don’t lend themselves to mass volunteering. It seems companies are also giving different charities the opportunity to become their Charity of the Year and employees are ready for a change.

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