Charity and business

Photo Credit:  Liz Finlayson/Vervate for The Alexandra Rose Project

Written by Susi Doherty

Updated: February 2020

This article is to tell you our story about working with charities.  Why we do it, who we decide who to work with, and what we get from it.  Also please note that we absolutely never take for granted that offering our services at a reduced rate or for free should be gratefully received without question.  We seek to work in partnership with any charity.


The Why

Our story so far

Starting this business on my own 9 years ago, I wanted to ensure my personal principles and ethics carried through all that we are as a business.  I had no idea how on earth that would unfold but it has proved an interesting and exciting journey so far.  I’ve learned way more than I’ve given out.

I have always been involved in organisations like Amnesty International and been on marches and signed petitions – I guess I am passionate about people.  Those principles I have found to be easy enough to weave into the way the business is run and how we treat our clients.  I haven’t had to go on a demonstration to claim unpaid invoices or anything yet min you…!


Susi Doherty of Vervate on a demonstration in 2010

Image: Liz Finlayson/Vervate – Me on a demonstration in 2010


That ethos really only affected the way I ran the business – plus we offered a discounted charity rate.  We still offer that, but as a bigger business now, we are able to more fully be actively involved in supporting charities and currently work with 2 or 3 charities per year.


The Who & Why


We decided in 2016 to have a certain amount of resource dedicated to offering our services to charities for free.  Before this, we were more ad-hoc in who we supported – many businesses are constantly approached by charities to help them, it’s not an easy thing to say no – but of course, you have to because otherwise, it would be all for free and that would the end of the payroll!  Once we decided to focus in, it meant we could be clear on our approach (useful in responding to requests and internally).  It also meant we could really look at developing our partnerships with those we worked with.

I know of businesses that actually ask for applications from charities every year.  We’ve not tried this yet, have you?  I feel that it is maybe asking charities to do one more form filling – but I understand the thinking bejhind it.  It is really useful to have a clear reason for why you are supporting who you are.

So this year (2020) – we continue to support The Martlets, but with reduced rates – the free stuff happens when there is a long, intense campaign.  We work with Refugee Support Europe becuase I met the co-foudner Paul some time ago and realy loved his approach.  Also, I felt personally a real need to do something to help the refugee situation.  Because we still had some resource to put into this charity, and January was quiet, we have also produced two short videos for local charities.  



Here’s an example.  The Snowdogs by The Sea campaign took place over the whole of 2016.  In aid of The Martlets, a much-loved hospice in Hove – it was a huge undertaking for the team there.

Snow dogs by the Sea logo


Being a campaign that needed our range of experience (with press, celebrities etc) – this fitted us like a glove, so we became official sponsors.


This meant that we achieved the following:

We were official photographers at 5 Snowdog Events

Took images of the Snowdogs on 11 different occasions – with their sponsors, on location, etc

Provided in excess of 1,000 images, 6 videos and 1 Cinemagraph

Carried a LOT of Snowdogs around different locations, including Churchill Square shopping Centre the North Laines and Devils Dyke.

Lost a wing mirror on the hired van we had to move Snowdogs (not our fault, btw!)

Led a training session on taking images for the comms staff

Did a presentation to the Marketing Teams of the other Sponsors

Officially sponsored the Snowdog called Roodle (pictured above)

Our images were used to secure coverage in all the local press outlets as well as a great piece in The Times.

Made a LOT of new friends and business contacts

Provided a discounted package for all sponsors on their own individual campaign.

Tweeted and retweeted as much as possible to support the reach of the campaign.

Had an absolute blast.


We had some wonderful feedback from The Martlets, especially from Sarah the Project Manager – see the video below, and felt like part of the team.

Most importantly we were part of the £337,900 finally raised at auction in December 2016 (not including other donations).


So what were the benefits for our business?

We have bonded even more as a team, and really enjoyed just getting stuck in and helping where it was needed.

We have had our Vervate credit line on a LOT of press coverage next to our photographs.

We had access to meeting some amazing people that we wouldn’t necessarily have met easily at other times.

We grew in our experience of running successful campaigns – Roodle had his own Twitter account – amassing nearly 500 followers in a few months (it became infamous along with the Bella Italia Snowdog!).

As sponsors, our brand has been magnified locally.

We have strengthened our company ethos of ‘people first’ in ways that are difficult to quantify.

I surprised myself about how much I could care for a large inanimate furry Snowdog.


I have learned not to be shy about the fact that we give our time and services free to a couple of charities – rather it is ok to have some publicty from that.



Deborah Meaden (quoted below), one of my ‘inspirational people’, wrote about the benefits of business supporting charity – click the quote for the full article.

“..corporate fundraising can bring a very important sense of fun into business proceedings.”



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