Author: Graham Sprigg FRSA Founder, Partnership of Equals CIC discusses why Partnerships between business and charities or community groups can be extremely beneficial for everyone involved.
In research published by Community Interest Company Partnership of Equals, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed (91%) agreed that working with communities can benefit both the employee and the community volunteers in developing new skills and experience. Partnerships between businesses and community groups or charities help to boost workforce motivation. They also contribute to a company’s social responsibility, providing positive proof of a firm’s willingness to invest in its people and wider society.
“This commitment is important to individuals, particularly when they consider the reasons they work for their employer.” explains Graham Sprigg, founder of Partnership of Equals. “A company’s track record in social responsibility is often also an important factor that prospective employees consider, when looking to develop their career.
From the viewpoint of employee motivation, the benefits of partnering with a local charity or community group are many. Staff are more likely to value their job and their employer, if they see support being given to relevant charities or community groups. Participation in community projects helps develop a sense of purpose and aids with team-building. However, these partnerships do need to be carefully managed, with the expected outcome for each partner considered. Partnership of Equals’ conducted research among over 270 people, involving workshops and in-depth individual interviews, as well as a national online survey. Significantly, the research also discovered that, when asked whether businesses understood what charities and community groups need, over two thirds of the respondents said they don’t.
Although everyone enters the partnership with the best intentions, companies frequently fail to understand what their chosen charity or community group actually wants and needs. While at the same time, community groups, particularly small ones, often don’t know what to expect from business support and sometimes don’t appreciate how to go about asking for appropriate support. Moreover, identifying how employees can become involved to best advantage of everyone is often overlooked. “Employees need to feel a sense of purpose if they are to give up their time and energy to support a cause. There is a lot more to a partnership than volunteering to repaint the local village hall” suggests Mr Sprigg. Matching a team’s or an individual’s real reason for becoming engaged can deliver tremendous benefits to everyone. When employees feel they have this sense of purpose, they are able to contribute much more. Measuring and reporting on engagement, using a company’s internal communications platforms, supports and strengthens the relationships even more. Employees give their time, expertise or financial support and in return they get more than simple recognition. They are able to feel part of something that is contributing to the greater good.
In order to fully engage your staff, Partnership of Equals recommends a four step plan.
First; start with the end in mind. Understand why your company, division or department is embarking on a relationship with a charity or community group. Have a clear set of objectives and outcomes for: your business, your employees, your chosen partner organisation.
Second; establish exactly why your people want to get involved, what they expect to give, what they can gain and how this might fit with potential partner organisations. Run a workshop that involves staff in identifying and selecting the partner organisation.
Third; look for potential partners who will benefit the most from the skills and commitment identified in the previous step. Also, try and understand as much as possible about what your business might get from the relationship. Often, a community group can teach your team a lot about issues that you may not have ever considered.
Finally; decide what you want to measure and report. Are you looking for any tangible output? Do you have feedback in place that could boost motivation, engagement and ultimately staff retention and recruitment?
Partnership of Equals CIC runs workshops throughout the UK aimed at helping companies to understand more about how to develop, manage and deliver successful partnerships with charities and community groups. Copies of their 32 page Insight Report, which includes the research findings and models for developing a successful business-community engagement programme, approached from the business perspective, are available by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org