Time to Spare

The problems facing small charities

Will Thompson

Reading time: 5 minutes

What are the challenges facing small charities?

As ever in the charity sector, funding is an issue. However, this is particularly an issue for small charities that tend to be much more reliant on other organisations for funding. Due to the huge cuts in local authority spending there are a lot fewer grants and other funding available to small charities. Added to this, because they don't necessarily have the time or skill sets to apply for different sources funding.

Finally, due to funders need for good data, the administrative burden on small charities to justify the grants that they already have is ever increasing, which costs both time and money. This problem can stop some charities even applying for funding from some grant making organisations.

How is increased globalisation affecting this?

As people become more globally minded they tend to become less locally minded. This means they are less likely to give money to small local charities, instead favouring larger international charities that have a more tangible impact for the money donated, such as the Against Malaria Foundation.

In addition, the increased hecticness of peoples lives, especially among young people, has meant that 25-34 year olds are the least likely group to volunteer according to a recent study by the NCVO. Due to the community nature of their work, small charities are much more reliant on volunteer time, so this trend is worrying.

Why is this bad?

Small charities are often the life blood of any community - everyone remembers going to birthday parties at a local community centre or village hall when they were younger. They are often an institution within a community that people trust and are happy to work with, even if they are suspicious of government.

They are often much more embedded in the community than larger charities and therefore are able to reach and know about more vulnerable people that others don't. They are therefore often best placed to solve problems such as knife crime and homelessness.

How are they dealing with this problem?

The less money charities have to spend, the more they rely on volunteers. Luckily, small charities have always been great at leveraging volunteer time to match their aims. As they are very locally focussed, people are still happier to help out because they can see the direct impact of their work in their community - despite the slow creep of globalisation.

As they are mainly volunteer run, small charities have very low fixed costs, so they are much more resilient to the hard times than larger charities.

What is going to happen?

Small charities are resilient, however, they still need some help. Due to the transient nature of volunteering, charities are often unable to provide as comprehensive a service when they are fully reliant on volunteers.

However, the usefulness of small charities is becoming more and more recognised. Many local authorities have set up "community chest" funds to give micro grants directly to small charities to improve community cohesion amongst other aims.

In addition, due to their lower fixed costs, smaller charities are starting to be seen as a safer bet for funding. They are more able to keep providing the service they were set up to provide when the money runs out.

Found this interesting - the NCVO has authored a few more interesting blog posts on this topic, supported by their research that can be found here, here and here.

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