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As business leaders, many of us will be faced with the challenge and question of not only how we give back, but how we can affect genuine change. There are so many worthy and worthwhile causes out there, and sometimes navigating which ones to support can feel like entering a maze.

I am a strong believer that for every business there is the perfect charitable partnership – it’s simply a case of dedicating the time and effort to find it. It is a partnership which should align with your business and its core function, be a purpose you believe in, and be relatable to the people you work with. By finding and investing in this partnership, as businesses we can often have a far greater impact which goes above and beyond a purely financial contribution.

I do want to emphasise: all charitable work is commendable and will make a difference. However, as an SME or challenger brand, sometimes it can feel as though monetary donations in comparison to those from our industry’s giants are minor and inconsequential. Instead, we need to look at what we – as SMEs – can give above and beyond cash, especially to smaller charities and not-for-profits.

Firstly, those looking to set up a new charity partnership or social initiative should look at who is trying to make a difference in their local area. For example, at The Flava People we have recently started a partnership with the Community Grocery, an incredible initiative which was founded during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 to support families across Wythenshawe – just around the corner from our own home. They support people in our community – the same community our team is part of.

What’s also important is to find a charity partnership where your value can be greater than just the money you donate. Smaller or startup charities face many of the same challenges as SMEs: scaling, funding, awareness, competition and an increasingly challenging economic climate. As an SME you will have a wealth of experience at your fingertips from navigating these waters. Offer that expertise, share learned lessons and contacts, and even just be ‘all hands on deck’ help if and when they ever need it.

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Our partnership with the Community Grocery will see every team member donate at least two days of time, which equates to around 150 days team-wide, over the next year. These donation days will allow us to offer unique skills and experience from within our own team, from how to run an efficient warehouse to creating strong marketing strategies and campaigns. All of this makes a meaningful, long-term contribution to the overall success of the initiative.

As with all good partnerships, we’re also confident we’ll learn from them too. That should be a fundamental part of any successful and sustainable partnership – that it is a genuine two-way relationship which both parties benefit from.

The third and final element is whether the partnership makes sense for your business and aligns with your company’s function and purpose. At The Flava People our mission is around enabling people to create game-changing dinners, which includes giving people the tools to create more flavourful, more nutritional meals, and more choice at wallet-friendly prices. We wanted a partnership which would align with this, which is why the Community Grocery’s mission of ‘keeping families fed’ (with accessible and affordable solutions) works so well with our own.

To support their mission, alongside the donation of time and expertise, through our Flava It brand we will be running a ‘Give-a-Shop’ initiative which will see 3p from every Flava It sachet donated, to help set up a new Community Grocery store in south Manchester. Through this, we are aiming to raise over £30,000 (around 1.5 million sachets) as well as donating product – both sachets and surplus stock and ingredients. Last year, we donated enough sachets to add flavour to over 140,000 dinners.

We’re only at the beginning of this journey, but firmly believe that ultimately, if business leaders take the time to find the right charity partnership, there is real potential. Potential to create longer-lasting, more impactful and real change, improve communities and have a positive impact on people’s lives.