Andy Triggs Hodge: How shared purpose can ensure aligned and collaborative approach to corporate partnerships for charities

Three-time Olympic rowing champion, Andy Triggs Hodge, now working with London Youth Rowing (LYR), offers his insights on how charities are able to best engage corporate partners by identifying, and developing, a shared purpose.

When people are choosing between heating and eating, where does that leave charities who rely heavily on fundraising?

One thing which is apparent is the increasing value of securing fruitful corporate partnerships to help mitigate against future drops in fundraised income. But just as individuals are having to make difficult decisions on their personal finances, so too are businesses. It’s arguably never been more important to engage corporate partners, but equally never more challenging to do so.

At LYR, our partners are a vital factor in allowing us to grow the sport and introduce more young people from diverse backgrounds to rowing. As a relatively small charity we’re confident our approach is working. We don’t have all the answers. But here are the areas we focus on.

Know why you are unique and celebrate that

Rowing isn’t football. Rowers aren’t generally household names. But rowing has the power to better lives. We know that the young people LYR engages with are generally healthier, happier and more motivated as a result of engaging with the sport.

LYR is also very aware that rowing often gets tarnished with a ‘class brush’ which is hard to avoid. But, LYR offers a different sort of rowing, like how BMX is different to track cycling. LYR’s rowing can actively be offered in state education to the most deprived communities across the country. That makes us unique.

We predominantly connect with people who’ve never rowed before, so we have to work hard to illustrate our impact and why LYR’s rowing is something they want to support. We connect well with businesses who share our passion, but interestingly rowing becomes just the tool. It may seem challenging at times, but when you do find them, you’ll have a far more committed corporate partner as a result.

Make specific asks and outline the impact that support will have

It can take a lot of back and forth to discover exactly what a corporate partner can offer. Sometimes it can feel like the charity ends up tailoring its ask to what the business wants to provide. Take time to understand what the company values and how they link with the charity, and then build on these.

One of the most successful partnerships we have had in recent years has been with Concept 2, a Nottingham-based company which created the international standard, and now mass market indoor rowing machine. We needed rowing machines; they made them. They also wanted to do something to support young people.

We’ve been working with Concept 2 for many years now, they’ve been a huge supporter, but each year our relationship grows as we work out better and better ways to help each other.

Demonstrate your impact

We’ve always had the data on how many people we have worked with. However, until recently we have lacked some of the hard data and proof points. Therefore, we recently commissioned, working with one of our major corporate partners Tideway, a report to demonstrate our Social Return on Investment.

From this we can break down demographics to understand gender, ethnicity and the key areas of positive impact.

It’s hard data proving our worth, also helping our partners understand their value and how their money is being spent / could be spent to transform young lives.

Create Win Wins

Because LYR is a unique charity that operates with a minority sport, we need to find ways to have an in depth conversation with companies. It’s all about offering a win for them first.

Running great team building events and experiences is second nature to us, it’s what we do with our young people. Turning our hand to the adult market has been an excellent way to engage with companies who’d never normally take interest in a rowing charity.

For example, LYR engages employees in enjoyable fundraising initiatives, like our Oarsome Challenge which involved teams from 24 different companies rowing down The Thames, or our Race the Thames events, which raised over £200,000 for us and many other charities.

Both gave staff at corporate partners the chance to do something different and enjoyable. During which we’re able to show them in some detail what we do and why it matters, which generates a personal connection with our work, our impact and leads onto creating long-term partners who support us. Thus, the win win.

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