Ann joined Business in the Community Ireland in April 2008. Ann’s role involves developing the capacity of charities and community organisations to engage with business around non-financial support such as staff expertise, time and resources.
We asked Ann some key questions:
What is the best advice you could give a community or charity organisation in approaching businesses for support?
Do the research – learn about the company you are approaching. Preparation is critical so put the time in and do the hard work, have a clear plan. Generic approaches don’t work – one size does not fit all. Think about why – why approach this company, why should the company support your organisation versus all the other charities that approach them. Sure your organisation needs the money, particularly in the current economic climate, however try to think big, be more strategic, be creative and look beyond the financial support to partnering with a company by presenting them with a wide range of opportunities on how they can get involved.
In face to face meetings or on the phone, Listen, Listen, Listen. Try not to overwhelm them with too much information. Be concise, and don’t let power point do the work. Build rapport and engage employees with your passion and knowledge. Ask open questions to get valuable information. Have your ideas ready to generate discussion and be open minded to change the usual way of doing things, try new concepts.
What are the advantages from a business perspective to establish a partnership with an organisation in the community/NGO sector?
From our work with companies, I can see clear shifts in how business engage with community, charitable and voluntary organisations. Companies are becoming far more strategic in their approach. There is a definite move away from one off engagements with charities such as one day team activities like painting and gardening and a move to build longer term relationships with charity partners – developing structured community initiatives that tap into their core expertise or that address specific business objectives. There is a clear rise in professional skills volunteering as well as a growing impetus to use core expertise and resources to support the up skilling of the community& voluntary sector. Great examples are Oracle Sales Training and Mentoring Programme and the Bank of Ireland Learning Zone training. The business benefits include: access to talent, improved employee morale as well as re-building trust and reputation. Critically businesses have the opportunity through partnership to impact on key social issues in Ireland such as education, health and employment.
What is the type of support companies can give beyond donations?
Anyone who knows me in the community, charitable and voluntary sector, knows my views on this particular question! Look beyond the money to a partnership, tap into the company’s non-financial supports – its people, core expertise, facilities, services and products. There are many examples in the sector demonstrating the impact of utilising all a company has to offer e.g. o2 and Headstrong.
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