What can counselling teach corporate fundraising?

In this thoughtful article, Briony Markham from Remarkable Partnerships explores notions of authenticity, empathy and listening and how these skills can help you build healthy relationships with corporate partners.

Written by
Briony Markham
October 21, 2021

Building strong relationships helps you win new business. It lays the foundations for successful partnerships and their growth and retention. And in the words of the psychotherapist Mick Cooper:  

‘Relational depth is a state of profound contact and engagement between people.’ 

I’m a trained counsellor and member of the Remarkable Partnerships team, and today I want to talk you through five person-centred counselling skills that can help fundraisers build successful corporate partnerships

1. Active listening

As a corporate fundraiser you want to make sure you hear what your prospect or partner tells you they need. Don’t make assumptions. We recommend you ask open questions, really listen to the answers then summarise back to so they know they have been understood. Active listening is an important life skill and an essential tool for every corporate fundraiser.

2. Be authentic

People relate to people, so be yourself. This will build trust so you can sail through any storm which you meet along the way. Sometimes this will involve admitting you made a mistake or shifting a partnership due to a strategy change within the company.

When you meet with a prospect it is essential that you build your relationship. An effective way to do this is to share a story about your cause which means something to you. By being real you give your prospect permission to do the same. And relationships built on authenticity are rare and powerful.

3. Be empathetic

Make it your goal to understand where your partner or prospect is coming from. Research is vital when you are writing a proposal and for relationship building. We recommend you ask yourself these three questions:

·      What keeps their CEO awake at night? 

·      What are their business priorities right now?

·      How can our proposal/partnership help them deliver on those business priorities?

You also want to be aware of any changes that happen in the company and how this might affect your relationship. So, we encourage you to follow your partner or prospect on social media and book in a catch-up meeting to find out what is happening with them.  

‘Being empathetic is seeing the world through the eyes of the other, not seeing your world reflected in their eyes.’ - Carl Rogers

4. Have clear boundaries

Counsellors have to keep clear boundaries, so they protect themselves and their client.  As fundraisers, we also need to protect ourselves and our charities, so this means we sometimes need to say ‘No’ to a company. However, it is important we say it nicely, because someday we might want to get back in touch and revisit that opportunity.

Also look after yourself.  A counsellor has to look after themselves because they have tools which enable clients to make important changes. Corporate fundraisers are the same. You are building corporate-charity partnerships for a better world. So, look after your wellbeing and this will enable you to be professional and deliver what you say you are going to deliver.

5. Timing is everything

In counselling you have to keep strict time boundaries. As corporate fundraisers planning your time efficiently is important to set expectations with your prospects and partners. When you create joint partnership plans and keep them informed of progress, you demonstrate you are professional and reliable, and this builds up valuable trust.  

If you want to find out more about how to build successful relationships with your current partners to increase value and extend their commitment, you might be interested in Remarkable Partnership’s Account Management Crash Course on the 23rd, 25th and 30th November 2021.

About the author: Briony Markham

Briony Markham

Fundraising professional with 20 years experience in corporate fundraising, specialising in strategy, project management and mentoring.

• Experienced manager and strategic planner
• Skilled project manager, with team ethos, achieving donor deliverables whilst balancing the integrity of the charity.
• Proficient in key marketing disciplines including CRM, sales promotion, sponsorship, external & internal PR and direct mail
• Successful generation of new business with good written, verbal and presentation skills
• Excellent client management and interpersonal skills
• Creative thinker and problem solver

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