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British Council

Case study: The British Council increase their global fundraising capacity

Working commercially at a local level, worldwide

The British Council asked =mc to help it to increase income generation across the globe by designing and delivering training programmes that would develop sponsorship and business relations skills among staff. After this training British Council staff in Russia secured a 1 million Euro sponsorship deal!


The British Council was founded in 1934. It is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. As well as education, the British Council runs programmes in the arts, science, sport, governance and English language. It is a major international organisation, employing 7,900 staff and operating in 110 countries and territories worldwide. Its programmes reach over 112 million people every year, across the world.

The British Council’s core purpose is to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people worldwide.

The British Council identified in 2004 that by adopting a more externally-focussed approach and developing corporate partnerships across the globe, it could diversify its income streams, develop its brand awareness and increase audience-reach through the provision of better projects.


The Council recognised that generating income – and the successful implementation of this as a global strategy – would require its staff worldwide to develop new skills. In particular sponsorship, business relations and partnership working were identified as major skills gaps.

If it were to achieve its goal of improving the income generation potential from business at local, regional and global levels, it would also have to address the following key challenges:

  • sponsorship and business partnerships had grown in recent years but the Council was not gaining as large a market share as it might
  • the Council had a significant and valued brand that had the potential to raise significant sums but was not being exploited
  • the structure of the British Council meant that there was increasing demand for income generation at a regional and country level
  • products, projects and regional contexts varied considerably
  • limited skills existed globally to implement the business partnership strategy
  • the programme needed to address the differing experience levels of staff worldwide
  • any intervention needed to be tailored to the British Council context

=mc’s brief

In November 2005, =mc were approached by the British Council to design and provide a programme to develop business sponsorship, which could be delivered globally. Part of this would consist of a 2-day training programme to be delivered in a range of countries. The overall aim was:

“To achieve greater impact on British Council outcomes by building capacity within British Council staff worldwide for securing and managing mutually beneficial partnerships with business”

What we did

There were five dimensions to the programme development which =mc carried out.

1. Map the sponsorship context – we began by identifying, with senior British Council officers, the unique position the Council should occupy and what sponsorship options were likely to be attractive

2. Design the generic programme – to create a flexible and adaptable programme that would equip the participants to raise significant funds, and address the identified learning outcomes:

  • understand how sponsors make decisions
  • be able to communicate effectively with business sponsors
  • understand the principles of relationship management – in a global context
  • be able to identify projects likely to attract sponsorship or CSR support

3. Specific customisation – we customised each programme to take account of local/regional examples, culture, economy and context. This ensured the organisational context was maintained and allowed tailoring of case studies, exercises and examples where appropriate.

4. Programme delivery – we rolled out the programme to appropriate regional and country participants – in places as far apart as China and Nigeria, Russia and Brazil, working with the internal British Council team.

5. Review and evaluation – regular reviews ensured the programme met the agreed needs, and we subsequently identified a requirement for a more strategic programme. Programmes were reviewed and evaluated after delivery. Feedback from the Council’s Business Partnerships Team indicated a requirement for a second level of programme at Director level. So, =mc worked with the British Council to develop an additional 3-day strategic level programme. The Business Partnership Team indicated that the programme should address:

  • the need to integrate the product development cycle with funding strategies
  • a requirement to review product portfolios at regional and country levels
  • recognition of the need for a more effective Key Account Management approach across the Council
  • the fundamental objective to take a more strategic approach to business development and commercial partnerships – globally, regionally and locally


“Excellent course – energetic, knowledgeable and inspiring. One of the best training events I’ve attended in 20 years!”

Sandra Hamrouni, Director Bahrain, British Council

“This course was excellent in content, relevant, very practical and useful both immediately and longer term.”

Liz McBain, North/South Projects Manager, British Council

To date, we have rolled out over 20 programmes in 14 different locations globally, including Ukraine, Nigeria, Brazil, China, Zambia, Poland, Czech Republic, and Tanzania.

Over 300 staff have now been equipped with the skills to secure increased income from business.

Various regions and countries have noted increased success in working with business and securing sponsorship or CSR deals – including a €1M deal in Russia.

Most of the regions now have commercial strategies either in place or in development following the provision of a Director level programme.

The British Council has reviewed and refined its product development strategy alongside the programme to ensure it has better products/offers for both its service users and to attract business investment.

Find out more:

We have recently launched an International Resource Mobilisation and Fundraising Programme, which can deliver customised fundraising training across your organisation, worldwide. To find out more about this programme download our brochure.

Visit the British Council website:

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