Bring on the turtles! What does it take to be a Charity of the Year


There was a plethora of Charity of the Year (COTY) announcement throughout January as companies shared details of their new long term employee fundraising partners.

The well-known model combines fundraising, volunteering, campaigning for the charity and engaged employees and improved reputation for the business. It involves marathons, cake sales, mountain climbs and quiz nights. It’s critics complain it takes up valuable time and charity money for no good reason. It’s also a bit of a misnomer – many are deeper relationships that last for two or three years.

 But what does it take to win?

 1. Tick the right boxes

Entering the race to be a corporate charity of the year requires a talent for process and form filling. Companies tend to be specific about the criteria they consider including brand fit, organisational efficiency, employee engagement, strategic suitability and the demonstrated impact on community.  They also follow a strict timetable.

For example Deutsche Bank starts its selection process early in May. The charities it considers must have an annual income of between £1m – £10m and the help children and young people up to age 24.

 2. Eyes on the prize

There is no denying that the process is a hard-fought competition that impacts on charity fundraising resources. Lloyds Banking Group develops an initial list of 10 potential charities and then begins a difficult elimination process.

But the prize is worth it. Being a charity of the year not only brings in cash – Santander raised over £1m for British Heart Foundation in 2015; Deutsche Bank £1.8m+ for Malaria No More UK and Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity in 2014– it also takes a charity’s message to thousands of employees who may be future long-term donors and supporters.

 3. Personal attention and showmanship

Employee voting is an integral part of the decision-making process and often a final say. And everyone wants to make a difference. You need to balance an overall big picture pitch – the change the corporate relationship will make happen for the charity – with a heartstring pull for every individual.

Clever charities are using social media to engage voters and stunts add impact – The Carers Trust gained Co-operative Group’s COTY title by convincing Welsh actor Michael Sheen to tweet support, while the Marine Conservation Society brought turtles to Deutsche Bank in 2012.

My favourite new pairings:

  • Vodafone and the Scout Association; the continuation of Vodafone’s Digital Parenting campaign helping kids stay safely connected online and launch the Scouts’ Digital Manifesto.
  • Santander with Barnardo’s and Age UK; covering both ends of the age spectrum
  • Autistica and Deutsche Bank; a major boost for autism research, one or the least funded areas of research in the UK, secured through a clever twitter and Facebook campaign. #‎VoteAutistica


Aleksandra Korzeniowska,

Albright Special

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