The ‘insider’s perspective’ to the corporate pitch process

This first Good Values ‘Big Thinkers’ round table for Heads of Corporate Fundraising took place in November 2011. A total of 20 charities were represented at one of the most over-subscribed events in the Big Thinkers series.

The evening was opened by a presentation from Peter Bull (Head of HSBC in the Community) and Jacquie Irvine (Co-Founder, Good Values). Peter has worked at HSBC for over 30 years, and has spent the last ten years as Head of HSBC in the Community. Over that period he has reviewed thousands of funding proposals from charities. Much of his work in 2011 focused on seeking a new flagship charity partner for HSBC, with significant investment planned. Good Values was appointed to create this new flagship community investment initiative for HSBC, including identifying suitable charity partners and managing selection process.

The presentation provided an overview of why HSBC invests in the community as well as some key insights into what HSBC was looking for in a flagship partner. Peter described what a strong programme and good fit between a charity and a company looks like (from HSBC’s perspective), as well as some key recommendations on how to build a relationship and impress a potential corporate partner during the application process.

Jacquie provided an insight into the HSBC process, including how Good Values helped HSBC to define which cause area its new programme would focus on, as well as the partner selection process. Jacquie gave an overview of how the long list of charities was developed, and how the charities were assessed in the subsequent Request for Information (RFI), Request for Proposals (RFP) and face-to-face pitch stages.

The Q&A session and facilitated discussion highlighted a number of key issues faced by Corporate Fundraisers when pitching for major corporate partnerships. The ‘Big Thinkers’ debated whether some cause areas – those that are ‘less attractive’ – will always struggle to win major corporate partnerships such as the one with HSBC.

It was generally felt that where there is a staff vote, certain causes or brands still see greater success, but that times are changing and a number of high profile companies are deliberately selecting causes that have traditionally had less mass appeal, e.g. Tesco and Alzheimer’s Society.

In terms of the HSBC process, a range of potential cause areas were researched in depth by Good Values and tested both internally and externally. It was important that the cause area addressed a real societal need, provided a strong fit with HSBC’s values base, and gave differentiation in a crowded marketplace. The HSBC process did not involve a staff vote but during the internal consultation HSBC staff specifically said that the programme of work – not the charity brand – was of most interest to them.

Whether to involve beneficiaries in face-to-face pitches was another key topic, both HSBC and Good Values advised that if managed appropriately, this can be a very powerful way of bringing the cause and proposed programme to life.

The Big Thinkers gave their perspective on being part of corporate selection processes; generally it was felt that deadlines can be unrealistic, and that meeting high demands for employee volunteering is difficult. There was an interesting subsequent debate about employee volunteering and the challenges that charities face in meeting corporate demands, as well as the costs associated with this.

This is only a short summary of the full discussion. If you would like to know more about this ‘Big Thinkers’ discussion, or our other ‘Big Thinkers’ events, please contact us.