whatCharity wishes to continue sharing insights and tips on charity – company collaborations. We do this in order to help bridge the gap that was revealed in our survey last year between corporate giving and grassroots charities. This week, we’re interviewing Cherryl Martin, a marketing, communications and business operations leader from Wonderland Marketing and an experienced charity trustee.

Cherryl, how would you define the role of corporate support on smaller, local charities or charities in general? Are things changing in any way?

Smaller, particularly local, charities have one of the most important roles to play in the economy. They provide much-needed services, care and support for often quite vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations. Smaller charities can cater to the complexity of their specific needs, where mainstream ideas and interventions do not work. 

It would seem obvious that corporates, would be keen to partner with these progressive organisations . Smaller charities can offer high levels of local knowledge, delivery flexibility and targeted beneficiary outcomes that would be the envy of many larger, even national organisations.

However, it can be quite difficult for charities to get the foot in the door of a corporate partner. It takes quite a long-term, strategic approach to identify just the right points of entry, develop compelling messaging, navigate the landscape of internal influencers and pitch the correct sorts of mutually-beneficial outcomes that building strong corporate partnerships require. 

In terms of companies allocation of resources to charities, what kind of matchmaking advice you would give as a corporate professional and a trustee and active supporter of small charities?

Here’s where my bias as a marketing professional may shine out – to charities, the most important advice I can offer is to say “know your customer!” Know what makes your target partner tick from a vision, values and commercial priorities standpoint. And where your audiences and frameworks align. Pick and choose carefully and then invest in these kind of deep-dive exchanges before you even think about pitching or proposing a long-term relationship. Bring something to the table that is fresh, innovative and tailored to really pique and respond to you potential partner’s deepest interests. This will absolutely pay dividends. 

And for companies,I’d say, look for matches where you can provide not only short-term resource – such as financial, human, product or other capital – but where you can also make long-term investments that help enhance skill sets, drive innovation, build access pathways or enable ongoing growth within the charity. While this involves much deeper commitment, you then can rest assured in the knowledge that you leave the organisation stronger and more resilient for any uncertainty that the future may present. It comes back to the age-old adage of “Give a (wo)man a fish…” vs. “Teach a (wo)man to fish…” 

HAY charity

The charity HAY where you are a trustee is building a corporate strategy to gain more volunteers and money. What are the key findings of your research and strategic decisions you have made based on those findings? How do you intend to find your perfect matches?

HAY’s research around corporate CSR strategy tells a really interesting story. We have encountered that there really is no one way to do corporate social responsibility, which represents challenges for charities. 

In certain organisations, it is very much a grassroots set of initiatives led by employee interest, drive and oversight, sometimes with structural or administrative support from HQ, sometimes without. In other organisations, particularly say among professional services groups, charity commitments may have grown organically as offshoots from the partners’ personal portfolios and then over time become formalised through the establishment of a company foundation. But then again, sometimes not. 

In yet other organisations, we find named CSR professionals with departments, budgets and mandates all their own. And lastly, but certainly not least, a model we see quite a lot, particularly among global corporates is a mix of all of the above, e.g., employee-led, foundation-led and department-led programming, with marketing, HR and operational groups frequently splitting the priorities, funding and initiatives amongst themselves.

As a result of this research and understanding, HAY have taken a highly segmented approach to our outreach and relationship building – using as much of the above types of information as possible to inform our contact, messaging and partnering strategies. While we have award-winning beneficiary outcomes – and the social research proof-points to evidence those achievements – we never try to establish or grow a relationship using a “one size fits all” approach. 

What role does digitalisation play in helping companies and charities match with each other and what are the elements of the collaboration that need face to face or other kind of effort?

Digitisation makes enormous mountains of information accessible, categorisable and like-for-like comparable. That represents huge benefits for both charities and corporates. But electronic information is only as good as your ability to make meaning of the data. E.g. looking to find a partner in particular type and geographical location can be a challenge. 

I’m a huge proponent of using data resources to narrow and focus your investigative activities and to facilitate the early stages of matchmaking. That’s where offerings like WhatCharity and then later, collaboration and face to face efforts, come into play. WhatCharity makes it possible to get beneath the very uppermost layer of charity and company data. And it does so with the kind of search functionality, data visualisation tools and multi-media features that substantially differentiate it from other platforms. It works for HAY!

HAY charity

As we know, 91% of companies collaborate with charities with the intention of doing good, but also with the hope of building their brand and helping their employees to engage with their workplace better. What is your advice to charities to ensure they help meet these needs?

It is important for charities to take the time, care and intention to very carefully identify how each of corporate supporters will best “find their way” into the charity story and become part of our narrative of success, so to speak. It also means that board members could be much more active in this process than might traditionally be expected as they can provide different type of managerial, professional and local knowledge and support as an extended team. 

As an example I wish to share a success story of HAY and GSK collaboration. We partner with GSK on an Orange Day of service where the employee-led effort benefits HAY’s eco-therapy allotment, which in turn supports our all-ages community BBQ days – among our most popular local outreach programmes. Well-attended by GSK volunteers and covered very positively by local press, we have been able to achieve broader visibility for both HAY and GSK, on a project closely aligned with their core company values.

What’s more important for charities – money or volunteers, or both?

This is a real Scylla and Charybdis, chicken and egg, rock and a hard place type of question though.

Volunteer support is the lifeblood of many small charities, HAY included – enabling us to punch well above our weight in terms of skilled inputs, community engagement and delivery potentials. But we all know the kind of financial pressures small charities are under to constantly do more with less, particularly as year-over-year what were once “stable” funding sources can shift focus, reduce in capacity or dry up entirely. 

So monetary resource is key to securing not only today’s outcomes – but also to being able to plan effectively for tomorrow’s. Robust, vigorous and reliable annual, 3-year or 5-year plans which can incorporate all asset categories (financial, human, operational, etc.) really make all the difference between “good” and “outstanding” charity performance. 

For HAY, our young people deserve nothing less than outstanding. So I’d say both, definitely both. Money AND volunteers.

Give examples of what kind of contributions in terms of funding, getting volunteers, skills and advisors, would help your size of small charity and what difference could be made?

Volunteers are also key to HAY’s success. For example, we’ve consistently attracted highly skilled volunteers who are advanced degree candidates in youth work and/or the social sciences. We continue to face a shortage of talented volunteers in critical areas like social media management, PR/journalism and fundraising. 

Funding is a very clear priority for us as well. Issues facing young people, such as the dramatic increase in knife crime is not a front page media story for us – it’s a real and present threat  and we empower our young people to address by enhancing their decision-making skills, encouraging them to take responsibility for their life choices and helping them to grow personal resilience.

We are also seeking some product and service donations, so, on that note – if you’re reading this, log on to your whatCharity account, look us up and get involved with HAY’s work. Start changing lives today.

Cherryl Martin is an award-winning marketing, comms and business operations leader with 20+ years management experience working around the globe for blue chip multinationals, innovative tech startups, high-growth SMEs and groundbreaking third-sector charities.

Now a business owner in her own right at Wonderland Marketing, Cherryl previously held senior corporate roles for FTSE 100 organisations such as Barclays, Pearsons, Informa, MMC/Marsh & McLennan, Lehman Brothers and Viacom.

A BA (Hons) graduate of Yale University, Cherryl received her postgraduate credentials in Advertising and Marketing from New York University and is a Fellow of the Institute of Data and Marketing (IDM).

A native New Yorker, Cherryl is a long-term Trustee of HAY who – with husband Paul and miniature schnauzer Finn – now proudly calls West London home.

Hounslow Action for Youth Association (HAY) is a charity dedicated to helping vulnerable children and young people reach their full potential.  It also aims to help the local community come together in a safe, caring environment.

Since it was established in 1986, HAY has worked tirelessly to support the many children and young people in the London Borough of Hounslow who face big challenges in their lives.

Sadly Hounslow is fraught with social and economic disadvantage.  In fact, using measures of income, employment, health, education, crime, barriers to housing and services, plus assessments of the living environment, the neighbourhood in which HAY operates is ranked within the 20% most deprived wards in the country, according to the Communities and Local Government Indices of Deprivation 2015.  

For local young people, that means anti-social behaviour, crime, truancy, poor educational attainment, unemployment, gang culture, reliance on benefits, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and teenage pregnancy are just some of the problems they are likely to encounter.

And, without the right support, many children and young people in Hounslow are at risk of heading down the wrong path in life.