United Way UK thrives without relying on Government or Trust funding ...and you can too

Demand for your services is growing faster than at any other time, while income is headed in the opposite direction, and continues to fall with every passing year.

Competition for government and trust funding is squeezing everyone, and hours of hard work and resource spent on applications lead to disappointment time and again.

Sound familiar?

At a time when voluntary income continues to fall, public trust in charities has once again been shaken, and where the UK’s very identity is in question with Brexit uncertainties, I feel proud and lucky to be a part of the United Way European and Worldwide families. United Way is unusual in being almost wholly privately funded, and our global excellence as a business partner makes us expert in corporate partnerships; we are part of the largest privately funded nonprofit in the world. Most importantly, it makes us sustainable.

We may be small, but United Way UK’s expertise lies in empowering the private sector to support the communities where they do business, growing the local services and economies where their customers and staff live and send their children to school.

We take a uniquely global, strategic focus on local community groups, leveraging global expertise, impact and networks to support disadvantaged communities as a business partner. We convene a platform where beneficiaries, businesses, local charities and donors can work together, harnessing their expertise and amplifying their impact, because mobilising the rich resources that are already in our communities is the most cost-effective way to reduce inequalities and boost economic mobility.

It is our ambition to grow this model as a solution to diminishing voluntary income in the UK.

One of the ways we want to do this is by supporting small charities to develop their corporate partnership strategies, empowering local communities by connecting them with business. United Way UK provides subsidised consultancy support to small charities. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us at info@unitedway.org.uk and we will be happy to help.

3 things your charity can do right now to develop corporate partnerships
  1. Reframe the Ask

The days of the giant corporate donation cheque are pretty much over, and amen to that.

One-off donations and sponsorship are great – they can support you to deliver part of a service or leverage more funds through events for example - but are characteristically transactional and therefore short term. The key to sustainability is cooperation that advances mutual interests.

Companies understand that, in order to secure employee engagement, brand recognition and customer loyalty, they need to give back to the communities where they do business. 85% of Millennials will switch brands for a social proposition – CSR is now key to achieving business goals and you, as a charity, are perfectly positioned to support that CSR as a business partner.

  1. Do your Homework

Although time-consuming when you have a million and one other priorities, it’s worth investing in some solid research. Most companies set out their strategic goals and CSR plans on their websites, and it’s important to identify where mutual interests and goals intersect. Understanding where the synergies lie between you and potential corporate partners is key to making successful proposals.

It’s been said that people do business with people they like.

Getting a personal introduction to a decision-maker in your target company is more fruitful than going in cold. Check with your trustees and ask them to check their networks. Check LinkedIn and other networking channels – you may be surprised to find you have a link to a potential partner that leverages a successful ‘in’.

  1. Redefine ‘Donation’

Corporates increasingly give non-monetary resources, via volunteering opportunities for example. This can provide your charity with game-changing expertise.


Offering volunteering opportunities can be an entry point to a deeper relationship and may be worth the investment of your time.

Always let the company know at the outset that there’s a cost to providing a volunteering opportunity, and prepare a budget that covers resourcing. Negotiate from the position of business partner – you can help them achieve their goals and dreams – and you forge the basis of a mutually beneficial relationship, rather than a short term, dependent transaction.


Once you’ve secured your partnership agreement comes relationship management – you want a marriage not a fling! But that’s another blog!