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Partnering with charities offers businesses a way to give back

Businesses are engaging with employees about where charity funding should go

For many businesses, partnering with a charity is a great way to give something back but also helps build brand awareness and can help customers connect with the brand.

For many businesses, partnering with a charity is a great way to give something back but also helps build brand awareness and can help customers connect with the brand.


With many businesses struggling financially due to the impacts of lockdown and charitable fundraising events not taking place in the same way they normally would, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, some not-for-profits may be missing out on the generosity of the general public and businesses this year.

For many businesses, partnering with a charity is a great way to give something back but also helps build brand awareness and can help customers connect with the brand.

With less money around, charities might have expected their business partners to turn focus to profit margins and keeping operations running but Gary McGann of Barnardos says it was quite the opposite for the children’s charity, with business partners “wrapping their arms around” them.

“Decent businesses fundamentally believe in the concept of putting something back into society. In the last decade the mindset of employees and the contract between employee and employer has changed dramatically in terms of expectations and in what matters. There is huge interest from employees in things like decency and caring and how companies engage with the less well off. They are now more engaged with not-for-profits on a more strategic basis than say just throwing a few bob because it’s Christmas or Easter,” he says.

Most organisations that partner with a charity will engage with employees around where the funding should go and it’s very much a “collegiate approach”. Many have one- to three-year commitments of reasonably large sums of money, where employees either volunteer or fundraise and the company matches or more than matches the amount.

“We’re blessed with good partners in Dell, Ikea, Cadbury, who have all doubled down during Covid, as well as companies like Aldi and Liberty Insurance. Without these organisations the likes of Barnardos wouldn’t exist,” he says.

Focus Ireland hold several large fundraising drives throughout the year, including Shine a Light, its single biggest fundraiser.

“We have great partnerships with the corporate world – these have developed over a number of years,” says Pat Dennigan, chief executive of Focus Ireland. “Shine a Light started out as business leaders sleeping outdoors for a night in order to raise awareness around homelessness as well as raising some funds for the charity. Coming up to Christmas, Sponsor a Star on the Grafton Street Christmas tree is another campaign everyone knows and loves. Other initiatives include the Christmas Jumper Day. This year those sorts of events are going to be on Zoom.

“A lot of our fundraising has had to be held virtually this year but we have had tremendous support from both the public and businesses. Because of restrictions, rather than having events that people could participate in in the community, with Shine a Light for example, we asked people to sleep out in their own back gardens and stay connected via social media. That was a tremendous success. It resonated quite a bit with people this year, not having a home of your own and a door to close at the end of the day.”


Charities in the main are seeing the effects of less disposable income in the economy and fundraising events require much more effort and imagination in order to change them up slightly, particularly events that have been running for many years.

“It is difficult for people and certain sectors have been more heavily affected than others but people also recognise the needs of the most vulnerable and this is striking when you look at the generosity of the Irish public,” Dennigan says.

“Business partnerships are hugely important, from the point of view of financially supporting our work but also making sure the message gets out there. During the original lockdown calls to our service jumped dramatically – a 40 per cent increase for vital information services. People in homeless situations were now trying to deal with mental health issues and fears around Covid too. Microsoft helped us to be able to equip families that we were trying to engage with,” he adds.

While Barnardos do receive support from government, there is a “big shortfall” that needs to be addressed each year.

“We engaged with approximately 20,000 children and families throughout Ireland this year and we could do that again, and more, in terms of addressing kids who are deemed to be at risk, either in poverty or deprivation. Up to 200,000 children are defined as living in poverty in this country, which I find staggering.

“Rather than becoming despondent we continue to try to do as much as possible, not just with money, but around practical things like providing food parcels, or play packs. Even in a well-balanced family, being around each other 24/7 during lockdown is hard but for families that are not in great shape, all sorts of assistance is needed,” McGann says.

“We’re blessed with partners that have wrapped their arms around us and have worked even harder for us. We have also engaged with new people this year: Aldi have committed to raising €1 million over the next two years to support our efforts, Liberty Insurance over half a million.

“Our fundraising initiatives had to evolve and we’re seeing all sorts of interesting things like virtual quizzes, talent shows, socially-distanced runs – an enormous amount of imagination has gone into it,” he adds.

It’s also important that there is confidence around where the donors’ money is going and that there is transparency around it, McGann adds.

“With planned giving, the more transparent and positive governance-oriented, the more likely the charity is to get support,” he says.