Over the years at TUAid, we’ve helped create some of the most successful collaborations I’ve ever seen. Not just by uniting several different charities with common goals but also between these good causes, their landlords and their agents. I would even go further and say that this is more than just collaboration. It spills over into new relationships with local councils, local businesses and even local communities. Probably some of the examples demonstrate better than any explanation I could give. Often when a big opportunity comes along for a charity, such as the chance to occupy rent-free premises in the perfect location, it may seem too much to take on.

For example, a former department store, such as Debenhams in Woking, Surrey. On this face of it – Wow! You could not wish for a better prime location in the heart of a bustling shopping centre. Then you realise it’s 140,000 sq feet over four floors, far too big of a space for any single good cause to take on. At this point, understandably, most interested parties would simply walk away. Not TUAid. We love this kind of challenge. More importantly, we know how to fill this size of store because we’ve done it before at Debenhams, Wandsworth in London and M&S in Rochdale. This is where collaboration really comes into its own and I for one love seeing it come together.

Collaboration works at its best when everyone gains additional benefits they weren’t expecting. So, in the case of rent-free retail space, while the benefits for the charity and the business rates relief for the landlord may be the primary motivations, the unexpected advantages can often have even greater value. For charities, it could be learning from the considerable experience of another similar organisation. For a landlord, the CSR/ESG profile achieved attracting the attention of the BBC, gaining PR coverage worth literally hundreds of thousands of pounds. For the agent, becoming known as the expert in this kind of collaboration attracts new clients. Everybody wins and in the current economic climate, this has never been more important.

In the case of very large retail spaces, such as former department stores like Debenhams – large collaboration is essential. Once in place it opens up a world of opportunities that charities had not considered before. Sharing volunteer recruitment programmes, active expansion, new, repeatable / scalable fundraising initiatives are all far more likely to succeed once you have established premises. For landlords and their agents and interestingly local businesses the single most important thing is to maintain the appearance of a going concern.

We connect landlords, agents and developers with good causes with various levels of funding across the UK. Working closely with Temporary Use Aid and Rainbow rising, no other organisation has the scope or the scale of our ethical operational network.

Shaylesh Patel ASTOP CEO

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