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Chief Executive October 2019 Blog

Chief Executive Blog – October 2019

Lasting Impact for Suffolk’s Charities?

It’s all about ‘Conscious Coupling’

What jumps to mind for you, when you consider the idea of ‘corporate support’?  Are you someone who views this as a company carrying out fundraising on behalf of a particular charity?  Perhaps you think it to be more about committing to a one-off labouring task for a voluntary organisation, or covering a local club’s project activity through ‘sponsorship’?

While none of these are particularly ‘wrong’, they’re just a very small chink of light into the world of possibilities that comes with developing more ‘strategic’ corporate support.

It’s a known and well accepted fact that in today’s society, the voluntary sector benefits greatly from those who can provide financial and physical resource, and that support is all the more important during this period of austerity, with increased need and demand for services.

But how much is this happening, here, in Suffolk, within our communities, our business arena and our daily charity output that delivers so much across the county?

My personal fear is that sometimes mutually beneficial and impactful opportunities are going begging across our region, because companies don’t fully know how to engage with the VCSE sector – or what a valuable partnership they could create.

Headline findings from national research into corporate and VCSE partnerships (carried out by C&E Advisory Group at the close of 2018) show more emphasis is now being placed on building longer term relationships, many of which are often ‘non-financial’ and instead focus on helping one another achieve lasting learnings and impact from coming together.

Is this ‘conscious coupling’ mode of thinking, something we should be seeing more of in our region?  Can we move beyond the idea of a business simply needing to do a one-off ‘dress down’ day for a charity to tick its CSR box?  Could we instil in more corporates that voluntary organisations need greater empathy around their core purpose, and that while they understand you wanting to use them as a ‘project’ for a ‘team building day’, it’s the longer term and sustainable relationships which matter more?

Here at Community Action Suffolk, we are continuously hearing from our member organisations, who say they want to find more engaged partnership approaches with our regional businesses.  Certainly they appreciate those occasional funding contributions, but moreover, they look for ways they can benefit from skills exchanges, knowledge share, and mutually beneficial impact in our county patch.

Companies are, I believe, getting the message about a desire among the public to see businesses contributing positively to society’s challenges, whilst at the same time recognising that their staff – particularly millennials – will seek them out as an employer if the opportunity to volunteer and make a difference to an organisation is part of their professional working time.

Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) is the perfect solution for this in many respects, and we’ve aided numerous businesses to implement it so that they can help staff take part in projects and causal projects which resonate for them.

As many of you will also know, we additionally have our very successful ProHelp Scheme in the county. This sees corporates across Suffolk giving pro bono professional support – from architectural advice to legal knowledge – and means that we’ve helped hundreds of VCSE organisations achieve the next stage in the journey.

In fact, ProHelp has only in recent weeks learned the great news that it has received Lottery funding to extend its reach for three more years.

But what now?

How do my team and I want to elevate the momentum of partnerships and collaboration in the months and years ahead?

Simply put – we need more of you to come forward. We urgently want to grow our ProHelp partner network to aid other organisations; and at the same time, we’d like to support more companies in getting ESV up and running in their infrastructure.

This really is a great time for a business to start addressing how it works to impact its community, and we have some exciting campaign announcements set to be revealed about our focus on this in 2020 (watch this space).

For now, I urge any business – great or small – to get in touch with the Community Action Suffolk team and start discussing how their next chapter could include stronger, longer, impactful relationships with the huge number of charities, clubs and organisations in this county which need your unique support.

If you’d like to talk to me directly about opportunities in this area, please email [email protected]