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Building relationships with local businesses

Charities – you’re in a strong position, whether you know it or not. Increasingly, businesses are focussing on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – meaning they want to: 

  • Find ways to actively support local initiatives 
  • Encourage their employees to feel involved in their company culture and values, often through volunteering 
  • Improve their own sustainability in partnership with others 
  • Develop and improve both the diversity of their own employees but also their understanding of diversity and inclusion and their interactions with customers. 

This emphasis on CSR provides a real opportunity for many charities to engage with businesses in a mutually-supportive way.  

The question is – how? 

There are two things to get straight: what you can offer, and what you need. What does your organisation have to offer a local business? Here are some options you might want to consider: 

  1. Volunteer opportunities: Do you have flexible or remote opportunities? Do you need trustees or have skilled, project-based opportunities? Could you host a one-off team day or use volunteers for an event? 
  2. Training or skills: Can you offer training in a specific area? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, for example, training in supporting someone living with dementia won’t be of interest to an IT consultancy or a water company – you might be surprised. 

And what does your organisation need? This might be: 

  1. Awareness: Do you raise awareness about a specific issue that a business could help with? Or do you have events that a local business could sponsor or promote for you? Could they donate prizes?  
  2. Donations: Could the people you support benefit from donations of food, equipment or other items? In particular, think about seasonal collections, eg: back to school, easter eggs. 
  3. Funds: Are you running an appeal? Do you run challenge events that employees might like to take part in? Do you have an event that needs sponsorship? 
  4. Training: This time think, is there training an organisation could offer to your employees, volunteers, service users or trustees? 
  5. Facilities: Does a local business have facilities that you could use, either for a one-off event or regular meetings? 

Now you are clear on what you have to offer, and what you want, you need to work out who you are going to approach, and how. 

At Voluntary Support North Surrey, we have a large number of businesses on our database and it’s increasing all the time. We are happy to make recommendations and introductions for you. You can also join one of our Easter or Christmas gifting schemes.  

We are encouraging local businesses to come along to our Communities Together charity marketplace event on 29th June, so this would also be a good opportunity to meet people.  

Or make an approach directly. Use your trustees, employees and volunteers for an ‘in’. Ask to meet with them and present your offer. It can be helpful to tie this in with themed weeks.  

If you need further support or ideas, please get in touch with our corporate volunteering expert Jo Buckell. Email [email protected] 

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