Is the money really worth it? Accepting corporate sponsorships that could damage your reputation.

Business man walks on the wire rope.


Corporate sponsors are under growing scrutiny, which means the offer on the table needs careful consideration before charities and international organisations decide whether or not to accept it.

Today, everyone – from fans to employees and media – is paying greater attention to who is funding major global events and initiatives, and what sponsors are getting in return. Often, it’s an opportunity to earn credibility on a particular issue simply by association, resulting in accusations of reputation laundering which pose a significant risk to the reputation of those accepting the deal.

The seismic shift in how these partnerships are scrutinised by the public leaves charities with a tricky tightrope to walk – do you accept the deal and risk damaging your reputation, or do you look for funding elsewhere and risk impacting vital work?

We’ve helped a number of charities and international organisations consider this in the last year. Clients have come to us concerned about whether their leadership teams were adequately considering the reputational risks surrounding a new sponsor, and the potential long-lasting knock-on effect on their finances, recruitment, and relationships with their fans, donors, and members.

If you’re facing this challenge, you’re not alone. You can also call us – we’re here to help.

We will work with you to:

  1. Consider the sponsor’s reputation against your purpose and values. If you behave in a way that goes against what your stakeholders would expect of you, you risk damaging your reputation and losing their trust.
  2. Assess the potential knock-on effect on your finances. Look beyond just your purpose and values by also considering your commercial/fundraising goals. Will partnering with said sponsor help or hinder you reaching these? This will help you speak the language of your leadership team.
  3. Map out how your stakeholders will likely react. Will they be furious, or pleased? Annoyed, or indifferent? And if you choose to go ahead with the deal, have a robust communications plan prepared.
  4. Know your brand’s worth. Remember, sponsors also benefit from this two-way relationship, so don’t sell yourself short. If you decide to accept the deal, you’ll need to be able to justify and defend your decision.

Once we’ve gone through these four steps, you’ll have a clear map of the potential risks and benefits of accepting the sponsor’s offer, and how these are balanced, to help you make the right decision.

Juliette Monnet, Associate Director, Crisis & Issues at FleishmanHillard London.

If you’re currently facing a similar challenge and would like some help, please get in touch. You can contact [email protected].