Traditionally as a nation we all love to support the underdog, but during Small Charity Week it is worth remembering that the sector’s economy is still dominated by the larger charities.
The recently published NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 revealed that micro or small charities (those with an income of up to £100,000) make up 82% of the sector in terms of the number of charities, but account for less than 5% of the total income.
With government funding coming more from contracts than grants the challenges for small charities are now greater than ever in what is becoming a competitive environment. In addition to this smaller charities would rather be spending time delivering their day to day services than writing bids for potential contracts. To compensate, they need to take advantage of reaching you, the individual donor.
Individual giving still accounts for the largest proportion of income regardless of charity size, but without the marketing or fundraising budget of the national charities the smaller groups often go unnoticed in providing those essential services in our communities.
As a small charity ourselves, Chester Voluntary Action has its own funding challenges but the impact of our work is invaluable to our 400+ member organisations, strengthening their work and therefore strengthening the local community. It is our duty to direct and help our members flourish. The House of Lords report, Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society reminds us that ‘Small charities in particular need access to timely advice and support, and infrastructure bodies play an invaluable role by providing guidance and services.’
Charities with an annual income of under £10,000 make up around 30% of our membership and we need to ensure that they are aware of our services and are using them to improve their sustainability. We are known for bringing organisations together and building partnerships but we also need to help them promote themselves, to raise awareness in the public of the great things that are happening on our doorstep.
The Charity Digital Skills Report (half of charities don’t have a digital strategy) it is also important to make sure small charities are getting ready to embrace technology to reach out to young people, the supporters of the future, financial or otherwise.
Despite the statistics, smaller charities should see more opportunities than barriers. Unlike those traditional underdogs who we perhaps support through sympathy of their underachievement or inferiority, small charities are actually achieving just as much as their larger counterparts, often with more impact. We find that smaller charities are more open to partnership working, eager to put together consortium funding bids, and due to their grass-roots origins are more likely to understand their demographic, forging strong community connections.
We are always being encouraged to ‘keep it local’, whether buying from independent shops or supporting a football team, so it’s time to look around and stop ignoring these local, smaller charities when it comes to giving generously. And if you don’t know who they are then contact your local CVS to point you in the right direction.