Smaller companies could be the next ‘big thing’ in corporate fundraising
by Amy Appleton
Whether you have a mature corporate fundraising programme or are looking to develop your fundraising approach to attract corporate partners, it can be easy to be drawn in to the ‘big ideas’.

Chasing the lucrative partnership that will double your income, maximise your organisation’s visibility and cement your reputation as a corporate fundraising genius.
The person behind ‘The Big Knit’, the iconic partnership between Innocent and Age UK, achieved this level of fundraising glory. Launched in 2013, the campaign has seen over 7.5 million Innocent Smoothies wrapped up in woolly hats, raising over £2.5 million for Age UK.

The ‘Big Knit’ is an inspired example of cause-related and creative corporate fundraising, but you do not need to innovate the next ‘big thing’ to succeed in developing amazing corporate relationships for your organisation.

Whilst it is not wrong to aim big and be constantly aware of opportunities as they arise, you can often find much more value and return on investment in working to cultivate partnerships with smaller companies.

Smaller companies have significant benefits that can often be overlooked and with the right approach, you can optimise your appeal in a much smaller pool of competitors. Most importantly, you can look to remove cold-calling from your repertoire.

Hanover Dairies, a North East based milk company has been supporting the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity – which helps families who have a child with life threatening illness – since 2008. The company hosts a different fundraising event every year and has sent eight Rainbow Trust families to Center Parcs with £1,000 each spending money. In 10 years, the relationship has raised over £320,000. This relationship is not only a fantastic example of what can be achieved through working with a smaller local business, it is also a testament to the potential longevity in these relationships. Most importantly, it should inspire you to build relationships with your current suppliers – who provides the milk in your office?

There is a whole host of reasons why you should be focusing your corporate fundraising strategy on small and local businesses, here are five of the top benefits:

You already have a relationship with the company.
Your organisation will have suppliers, employees, volunteers, trustees, supporters, service-users who all work or know someone who works at smaller companies based in your area. This means that you could have a warm introduction and chances are, the decision-maker has heard of your charity and work already.

Smaller organisations can be more flexible in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach.
Larger organisations conduct extensive prioritisation exercises to determine their social responsibility focus areas. No matter how much synergy you think there is between your organisation and a large company, if you do not meet their criteria, you will not be considered for a partnership. However, small to medium organisations are motivated more by people and local impact. If you have a great idea, you are much more likely to get them on-board if they don’t have to negotiate arduous corporate red tape to make it happen.

Small companies need less resources to succeed.
The larger the organisation, the more resource you have to expend to make the relationship valuable to your charity. It is common place now for the larger relationships to require a full-time dedicated account manager on-site, combined with the thousands of collection tins, branding, design and event places, there is a significant upfront cost often without any underwriting or insurance of success. Smaller companies still require time, energy and resource to succeed, however this is on a much smaller-scale.

Smaller teams can often mean higher levels of employee-engagement.
Smaller companies tend not to be under the same level of CSR pressure and spotlight. Chances are, if you secure a smaller company as a charity partner, it is because they are really inspired to help your charity. If you have local volunteering opportunities, events and ideas for pro-bono support, you can get much closer to the employees who make the partnership a success than you could in a huge corporation. In a larger company, you would likely only speak to one or two key contacts who you would then have to rely on to disseminate information. In smaller organisations, you will likely be able to build up direct relationships with employees, widening your network of supportive individuals.

You are much more likely to succeed.
While you are cold-calling supermarket giants and dreaming up the proposals you would submit to international organisations (if you could just get the CSR contact to return your calls), you could be having face-to-face conversations with a range of decision makers from companies on your doorstep. The ratios for return on investment and chances of success improve greatly the smaller the company. One relationship with a local business may not hit the dizzy heights of ‘The Big Knit’, but through building a network of committed relationships with local smaller organisations, you can begin to establish a sustainable corporate fundraising programme and a reliable source of unrestricted income.

This article was written by Amy Appleton in October 2018. If you would like to discuss or comment on the content please feel free to get in touch at or