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Why Small Charity Week is needed and small charities should be celebrated

Blog post   •   May 13, 2014 17:36 BST

The small charity sector  (charities with an annual turnover of less than £1.5 million) make up 96% of all UK charities and yet when it comes to receiving funding, raising awareness, and engaging with policy makers they are frequently overshadowed by larger organisations.

Small charities are often local organisations working on the frontline with vulnerable children, families and communities. Whoever they help, whatever their cause, they are the glue that holds our society together and our world is a better and safer place with their existence. However, we are in exceptional times: The numbers that charities are supporting are ever increasing but the resources made available for charities to deliver their services are being cut across the board.

Small charities are now more than ever before being forced to prioritise the use of their funding to deliver frontline services. This means they are increasingly unable to train or develop staff and volunteers, which ultimately will impair the level of services delivered to beneficiaries.

A recent piece of research carried out by the FSI into the skills gaps within small charities has shown that 66% of respondents stated there was no funding available for training and development and 59% said they faced a lack of capacity to attend training. As long as these skills gaps continue, 37% said there will be no room to improve their charitable services.

Despite the issues small charities face they are achieving amazing results across the UK and the rest of the world by being very creative with the limited resources they have to ensure their impact goes as far as possible.

Yet despite the impact they achieve and they difference they make, it is the negative preconceptions of small charities which are still being focussed upon rather than the benefit they bring.  A recent example of this comes from All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Civil Society and Volunteering in May which focussed on the challenges facing UK charities. Of the charities on the panel the smallest organisation had an annual turnover of over £47 million. When the question was raised that there may be too many charities, the answer came that if they are struggling to survive then perhaps they should be allowed to fail as if they couldn’t survive they are not viable!

Just because small charities may be struggling does not mean they aren’t doing great work and should not be acknowledged and celebrated.  Many charities exist to provide services the state chooses not to, or that the private sector sees as unprofitable. I meet with inspirational small charities on a daily basis that have been established through a pure passion and commitment to change a situation and make a difference where they saw a need that wasn’t being met.  When a charity closes its doors there isn’t always another source of support that those who need their service can move on too, it’s not as simply as finding somewhere else to buy your weekly shop!

It is for this reason that we first established Small Charity Week in 2010 to provide an opportunity to raise the profile of the small charity sector and provide free opportunities throughout the week for small charities to build their knowledge, raise funds and engage with the public and policy makers. The agenda for the week is set in line with the skills gaps reported in the FSI’s biennial research.

To date Small Charity Week has supported 2,000 small charities with free initiatives, competitions and events. Yet there is still much work to be done to support the small charity sector. The Small Charity Week programme for 2013 is larger than ever before in order to support small charities in some of the key areas they have identified, this includes the addition of a sixth day for the first time dedicated to volunteering.  44% of small charity respondents told us they are reliant on volunteers rather than staff to meet skills gaps within their organisation and so Volunteering Day has been added to the agenda as a dedicated space for charities to promote their volunteer roles which will be promoted to individuals, students and businesses.

The 2013 Small Charity Week programme is now available for small charities with an annual turnover under £1.5 million to sign up to free events.  We want to thank all of our partners and sponsors for supporting us to make this week possible for small charities.

Pauline Broomhead is the CEO of the FSI

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