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Small But Mighty.

The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with Lloyds Bank Foundation has recently published important research “The Value of Small: examining the value and experiences of small and medium-sized charities in the UK”

The results show that overall on a variety of measures Small and Medium-sized charities (SMCs – defined as having an annual income of £10,000 to £1 million) are more effective in delivery of services and more efficient in use of resources than larger charities. 

Yet whilst those SMCs make up 52% of the total charity population they only receive 19% of charitable donations.  At the other end of the scale, charities with incomes of more than £10 million, which only make up 0.4% of total charities, receive 53% of all funding.  

Indeed the funding mismatch may be getting worse for smaller organisations as they are “more likely to be adversely affected by cuts to public sector budgets and approaches to commissioning and procurement that favour scale and perceived efficiency over more tailored and responsive approaches”.  Consortia (necessitated by those approaches) are also generally assigned a ‘lead-charity’ which is usually the largest charity receiving the largest share of the funding.  This is of course in addition to smaller charities suffering the ongoing lack of level playing field due to lack of funds for any assigned organisational resources for fundraising or creating a high profile brand, compared to the well-oiled marketing and fundraising machines of the ‘mega-charity’.

If you are an SMC it is easy to feel inadequate compared to large charities; inadequate because your branding isn’t as slick; inadequate because sometimes things seem that little bit more chaotic and ‘hands on’; inadequate because others get the contracts that you can’t even bid for; inadequate because you are the littlest around the consortium table.  But know your value.  These are the reasons why SMCs were found to be more effective and more efficient and they might just refer to you too.  The bullets below are taken directly from the report:

·         They are embedded in local communities and have an intimate knowledge and understanding of local people's assets and needs.

·         They build and nurture social networks that enable relationships between people and the wider community, and between those communities and local and national government.

·         They engage directly with groups that other agencies fail to reach and listen to, and work in holistic and person-centred ways that are responsive to individual and local contexts.

·         Staff, trustees and volunteers take on multiple roles, which provides greater flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of service users.

·         Their distinctive service offer plays a critical role addressing social welfare issues at a community level, including plugging gaps in and joining-up public services.

·         Their distinctive approach is often more person-centred, holistic and accessible than that of statutory services and larger providers.

·         Their distinctive position - where they sit in the wider ecosystem of providers - utilises their extensive local networks and relationships to fulfil a stabilising and advocacy role at a local level.

…this research …..has made an explicit link between these distinctive characteristics and the social value SMCs create, for individuals, and for the economy. We found that this value stems from person-centred and holistic support based on:

·         Meeting needs, including averting and responding to crisis.

·         Helping people to achieve 'small wins', such as building confidence and self-esteem, which provide the necessary basis for longer-term outcomes.

·         Committed staff and volunteers, who create safe spaces with a family feel that encourage long-term engagement.

·         Creating the conditions, or scaffolding, for long-term engagement which can lead to more sustainable outcomes in the longer-term. "

The report considers strategies needed to change the funding landscape and is a thought-provoking read and I do recommend it: https://www4.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/value-of-small-final.pdf

I am an expert in working closely with SMCs to fulfil short-term funding needs and longer-term strategic objectives.  Do call me for a no-obligation conversation on the phone about the challenges your charity faces on 07792 503 815.

Natasha McCracken