Small – and mighty – charities
90% of organisations in the voluntary sector are small or medium sized charities. Despite making up such a large percentage of the sector the work that they do often goes unnoticed by many. Research commissioned by TSB, and reported in the Guardian (13/06/16), shows that small charities miss out on donations due to small profiles. However, as small and medium sized charities we are more and more involved in plugging gaps in local service provision than many of our larger partners in the sector. We at Westminster Befriend a Family are a charity set-up by local people, for local people. We draw a large proportion of funding and support from the local area and local business. Maintaining our profile is a direct result of diligent work by our volunteers nurturing links with the local community. In a borough like Westminster this is particularly hard owing to the transience of residents and local workers.
At a time when trust in charities is low, small charities go against the trend by staying close to their core mission and strengthening their roots in the local community. What small charities lack in size we make up with the strength of our networks. These are our greatest assets. They allow us great insight into the issues affecting our service users. Our locally based, high quality networks grant us the knowledge to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. As a part of a local community we can respond to needs as they emerge, helping to improve community cohesion and bring people closer together. Another advantage, that we as small charities have is our ability to reach those who are hardest to reach. This comes from a combination of our deep local knowledge and our approachability. We are not intimidating behemoths, but approachable, human organisations.
Despite the advantages of our small size, there are severe draw backs, our size makes robust data gathering and competitive tendering hard when facing huge charities with dedicated departments. Our strong ties to our local area make maintaining a large profile difficult and as noted above make fundraising a struggle. These difficulties are what makes weeks like Small Charity Week so important. It gives us the platform to make our voice heard and to raise our profile. Small charities are a crucial point of local knowledge and support, but we need support too.