Implementation and practical issues
If an ethical sponsorship policy
is to exclude support from certain industries or business sectors, how is it
to decide which should be in and which should be out?
Most charities look to exclude partnerships
with companies whose activities:
- conflict with the mission statement
- could harm the charity - directly
- might damage the public's perception
of a charity
For a more detailed discussion, the
of Fundraising has a 'Code of Fundraising Practice' which specifically relates
to Charities Working with Business. This is freely downloadable and contains
a very useful Risk Assessment section at page 18.
Whatever basic principles you choose,
there are still a range of potential grey areas for any charity, and exploring
the two inter-linked subjects of stakeholder surveying and company research
can shed some light on the subject.
Sometimes it is difficult to know
what things might be controversial or risky without some overview of the sort
of PR problems that companies face. One solution may be to look through lists
of the criteria that research organisations commonly track for their clients.
Here at the Ethical
Consumer Research Association we have 15 main 'categories' grouped into
four main groups:
Reporting, Pollution, Nuclear Power, Other Environmental Issues)
People (Oppressive Regimes,
Workers' Rights, Irresponsible Marketing, Armaments)
Animals (Animal Testing, Factory
Farming, Other Animal Rights)
Extras (Political Activity,
Boycott Call, Genetic Engineering, Alerts)
Each category itself has a number of other subcategories which are explained in more detail on our Corporate
The best way to find out where the
boundaries of appropriate fundraising should lie is to ask the organisation's
'stakeholders'. For most charities key stakeholders would be staff, beneficiaries,
and supporters. The Charity Commission in its document, CC59 - Reporting the
Activities and Achievements of Charities in Trustees' Annual Reports, lists
charity stakeholders as: users including beneficiaries, donors and funders,
volunteers, staff at all levels in the charity, interest groups, the public,
central, regional and local government (as a funder or as a policy maker), partners
or suppliers, the media. (12)
A stakeholder survey could be:
- making a few phone calls to key
players in a smaller charity and making a written record of the responses,
- sending a detailed questionnaire
to 5,000 randomly selected supporters in a larger charity, or
- anything in between.
Stakeholder surveys can also bring
additional benefits to an organisation. They can help build a stronger relationship
with stakeholder groups by giving them a sense of ownership or involvement.
They can also (if the results are right) bring legitimacy to bolder policies
which may be opposed elsewhere in the organisation. The Co-operative Bank, in
the development of its own ethical policies, commonly mails questionnaires to
around one million people.
5.3 Company Research
Once a list of problem industries
or sectors has been drawn up, the next stage is to identify a consistent method
to discover whether a potential partner is appropriate.
of Fundraising's 'Code of Fundraising Practice' for Charities Working with
Business contains a section on research at page 16. Among its fourteen points
are questions about:
- whether the company is part of
a larger group?
- what are its motives for giving?
- whether it is financially sound?
It also suggests that the company
itself might "exercise due diligence on behalf of the charity and be responsible
for all of the costs". Given that companies are not always as critical of themselves
as the civil society around them may be, this looks a slightly risky position
on the surface.
Some charities, with limited resources,
carry out this research themselves. Corporate Watch's has an excellent DIY Guide
to research Companies and contains a number of links to further research
Others may seek to use more commercial
external information providers to help them in this process. Ethical Consumer's
magazine and Corporate
Critic database are commonly used tools and have a range of prices, starting
from just £25.
The charity commission states that
"Current Charity Commission guidance, including CC20
through partnerships with companies, recommends that charities develop an
internal policy to cover research, planning and strategy processes which includes
establishing flexible written criteria for assessing the suitability of a proposed
Some charities specifically refer
to external sources as part of this external policy. Oxfam apparently uses ethical
consumer materials as part of its due diligence process (14)
and Mental Health Media states on its website that it assess "potential corporate
sponsors and funders using the Corporate Critic Database. This offers us an
independent and objective assessment of any potential funder or sponsor before
a decision is made. In particular, it helps to identify companies which breach
the criteria below..."