How to successfully manage a small charity

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How to successfully manage a small charity

How to successfully manage a small charity

From sourcing funding to recruiting volunteers, how can small charity managers juggle and prioritise all their responsibilities? Get kitted up with this toolkit from the FSI, the charity behind Small Charity Week


Many small charity managers find themselves multitasking; responsible for everything from fundraising to trustee recruitment and managing volunteers. With a small team, or even with only one of you, it is difficult to have a detailed knowledge of lots of different fields. Trying to juggle endless responsibilities can feel like an uphill struggle; even prioritising the tasks can be a task in itself.


In the most recent copy of the Small Charity Index, our quarterly survey of the small charity sector, it was shown that demand for services continues to increase, while income and staff numbers remain static. In another recent piece of research, the FSI Skills Gap Survey 2014-2015, 22 per cent of respondents cited skills gaps as being the reason for an inability to meet targets, and 23 percent felt that the quality of delivered work had decreased.


Managing competing priorities and skills shortages at small charities is an issue we need to address to ensure we are delivering the best possible services for our beneficiaries. To help, below we present a selection of the available tools and resources to help small charity managers run their organisation successfully.


Getting the right training and support


When taking on areas in which you might not have expertise, it is important to access high-quality training or advice.


A key resource that all fundraisers and charity managers should be aware of is the Institute of Fundraising (IoF)’s Code of Fundraising Practice. It represents the standards expected of fundraisers, set by the fundraising community. It is vital to keep an eye on the IoF’s website , as well as the charity news sites (I subscribe to Civil Society, Third Sector and UK Fundraising) for updates on any upcoming changes.


The FSI meanwhile provides free training and advice to small charities across the UK. We run free training courses across the UK in a range of topics, including all major fundraising streams, as well as two free conferences per year – one focusing on fundraising and the other on back office skills such as finance, HR and IT. These are a great way for small charities to access high-quality training for free. To follow on from the training, we also run a series of advice clinics where small charities can access 1:1 advice and follow up on any learning that they have accessed at the training. All the information on our services can be seen on our website.


Planning your fundraising strategy and funding streams


Once you have accessed the right advice and support, it will be important to have a clear plan and strategy as to how you will raise funds. Work out your budgets, and which areas you think you will be able to raise funds from.


In doing so, there are a number of questions which will need to be considered:


  • Which areas have you had success with in the past?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What resources will you need to have to be effective in different forms of fundraising?
  • How much do you need to raise and where will you raise this from?
  • What are the risks?


When considering which streams of fundraising to invest your energy, time and possibly money into, it is worth bearing in mind the potential return on investment, the time taken to receive funds, the risk of raising nothing and the potential amounts you can raise.


An excellent report I would recommend which discusses these ideas is Gimme, Gimme, Gimme by NFP Synergy. This is a useful starting point, highlighting a lot of the important considerations when deciding on a fundraising strategy.


One tool I always utilise for fundraising is a competitor analysis. The Charity Commission website provides an opportunity to undertake this analysis and understand how other similar organisations are funded. Generally, most charities and charitable trusts will upload their annual accounts to the Charity Commission website, and this data can be used to analyses successes in the sector.


How to access local support


In your local area there is probably a CVS or volunteer centre that can support you to find local sources of funding or volunteers. Local CVS are support and development organisations, promoting, supporting and encouraging local voluntary activity. They are a fantastic resource to help you, from the initial stages of setting up a community project right through to finding new funding sources.


You may also have other organisations in your location that are worth contacting, such as the Chamber of Commerce.


Grants from trusts and foundations


A lot of the core fundraising streams for small charities have excellent resources which can be utilised too. For trust and foundation fundraising, I use Funding Central. This platform helps organisations find the most appropriate grants, contracts and loans by listing thousands of funding and finance opportunities for voluntary organisations and social enterprises registered in England. It’s worth having a browse through the site as there's also a wealth of tools and guides providing support in developing a sustainable income strategy.


For further detail, I always make sure I read the Association of Charitable Foundations’ annual report. This is useful way of finding out about the state of grant giving within the sector and how this might impact on small charities.


Legacy fundraising and the importance of stewardship


For those of us who need to brush up on legacy fundraising knowledge, check out Remember a Charity. They work with member charities and partners in the legal sector, government and private sector to encourage more people to consider leaving a charitable gift in their will. This site is an excellent go-to resource providing the latest information, campaigns and examples of the effective messaging that other organisations are using for legacy fundraising.


This brings us onto a vital consideration that should always be at the forefront of a fundraiser’s mind: stewardship. It can be overlooked, but should be critical to strategic planning in a small charity. Stewardship is your tool to build and maintain supporters’ lifelong relationships with your charity. Thanking people appropriately and correctly is fantastic way to increase their likelihood of giving again.


Resourcing your fundraising


How you resource fundraising is an incredibly important area, and one can be overlooked. Do you need more physical or staff resources in order to undertake your plan? Do you need a trustee with specific fundraising experience?


Unfortunately, recruitment is not often a cheap process, but using LinkedIn and social media can help you promote vacancies. There are also a number of networking events where you can meet people and potential trustees – again, LinkedIn is a good place to look for these. If you do need to advertise, as with costs involved elsewhere, always weigh up the cost with the potential return.


Recruiting volunteers and trustees


Again, this is an area where your CVS or local volunteer centre might be able to help. There may also be regional groups who can support you. In London, we are lucky to have Team London who can support charities with volunteers. You can also advertise for volunteers on numerous websites, and a lot of these are free.


When looking for new trustees, it is always important to undertake a skills audit of your current board. What skills and experience are you looking for? Knowing this, and what motivations trustees might have, will help when deciding where to advertise or seek new trustees. There are a lot of networking events, which can be great places to look for people, and often these can be found on groups in LinkedIn.


Measuring and monitoring your impact


Charities should be focused on ensuring they use their resources to make the greatest positive difference to society. It is vital to monitor and evaluate the impact you have, and to use this to ensure you make the greatest possible difference to beneficiaries.


This information can also be used to build relationships with all your stakeholders, whether they be funders, donors, beneficiaries or volunteers.


Inspiring Impact is a tool that aims to make high-quality impact measurement the norm for charities by using an impact measurement diagnostic. They’ve also developed a Code of Good Impact Practice, along with practical guidance to help implementation.


Managing your data


Finally, to be a successful fundraising organisation you will need to measure your impact, look after your data and have a reliable way to access your fundraising records.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases are tools designed to help you with contact management, sales management, productivity and more. For example, Blackbaud provides specialist products for small charities.


How Small Charity Week can help


For a taste of all things mentioned above, I would recommend small charities get as heavily involved as possible in Small Charity Week . Taking place from June 13-18, the week will host a wide range of free initiatives to help small charities get funding, and learn from experts in the field. Attendance to all the events is free, and whether it be improving knowledge, raising awareness, taking part in fundraising initiatives to raise vital funds, or networking with policy makers and influencers, the week has something for everyone.


Alex Hayes is head of projects and fund development at the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI). For more information on any of the days or to get involved, visit the Small Charity Week website 

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