If a ceiling in giving is being reached, now is the time for small charities to be brave and take advantage of the opportunities available to them, says Conchita Garcia
At the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) we support over 5,700 small charity members. We class these as small and local charities and community organisations with an annual turnover under £1.5m. We therefore work with a very broad range of organisations across the UK who are supporting people in this country and across the rest of the world.
A trend we have been hearing about recently is that it appears a ceiling in voluntary giving may have been reached. Research carried out by both the FSI and CAF’s UK Giving Report 2017 suggests income to the sector is flatlining.
This comes at a time when the Small Charity Index shows many small charities are experiencing cuts in statutory funding with a simultaneous increase in demand for their services, while there has been only a 1% total growth in voluntary income since June 2013.
Simply put, this means funding coming into small charities is not compensating for the cuts, and it certainly is not covering the service provision needed to meet increasing demand for support.
So what can be done about it?
If a plateau in voluntary giving has been reached, small charities need to start thinking about how they can increase their slice of the donations out there. Now is our time to be brave, innovative and effective in securing funds to support our futures. This means taking advantage of the opportunities available to us.
One way to ensure we are doing this is to take some time to review or develop our fundraising strategies. This starts with a review of fundraising activities to ensure what we are putting our efforts into the best use of our resources for the greatest return on investment. If you don’t have a fundraising strategy in place, this is the first step in looking at what actions you’ll need to undertake to secure the funds needed.
Having a fundraising strategy (which is also used once it has been developed!) is essential in providing direction for your fundraising activity as well as a focus on the end goal: meeting the target of funding you need.
On another level, it supports a proactive fundraising approach, which enables charities to make the most of the different fundraising options open to them and perhaps try new initiatives.
Responding and getting results
Just one example of a small charity that has put this into practice is African Children’s Fund, a charity based near Oxford, whose focus on corporate fundraising provided fantastic results.
After deciding that corporate fundraising was an area worth investing resource, the charity attended a series of Oxfordshire business networking meetings where they met the owner of a small chain of local nursery schools.
The charity supports over 3,500 children through a range of predominantly school-based projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. One of their projects, the Quentin Junior Academy nursery school, supports over 70 pupils with daily nursery schooling in a safe environment away from the quarries where so many of their parents work. Due to the synergy with their work, The Oxford Nursery decided to make African Children’s Fund their nominated charity for a range of nursery-to-nursery fundraising events.
The Oxford Nursery set a series of fundraising targets for specific items that go over and above the regular funds that African Children’s Fund can provide. Through sponsored events, harvest festivals, cookie sales and pamper evenings they have funded a vegetable garden, desks, chairs and stationery, as well as paying a teacher’s salary for a year.
At the beginning of 2015, The Oxford Nursery took on a bigger challenge of raising funds for a bespoke new building for the Quentin Junior Academy. The new building is nearly complete, and they are working hard to raise the last funds needed so that the academy can move into its new home. As we’re sure other small charities can relate to, obtaining funding for capital projects from traditional sources can be difficult, so The Oxford Nursery’s support was crucial in getting the project off the ground.
In addition to fundraising, The Oxford Nursery has given African Children’s Fund a platform for raising awareness, from the reciprocal sharing of songs and photographs between the children in the UK and Tanzania, to presentations and newsletter updates for UK-based parents. In return, The Oxford Nursery has been able to demonstrate a robust commitment to a CSR programme that delivers tangible results.
In total the Oxford Nursery has raised over £8,200 for the Quentin Junior Academy, enabling their Tanzanian counterparts to improve the provision of pre-school education to disadvantaged children.
We would wholeheartedly recommend other small charities develop their own corporate fundraising plan to build relationships with small, like-minded businesses in their locality to raise funds for and awareness of their own charitable objectives.
Accessing training and support
A further action to support charities to increase their fundraising success is to ensure they are accessing the training and support they require. The FSI carries out a biennial Skills Gap Survey with small charities. The results of the 2016/17 survey show 61% of respondents highlighted that a lack of funding for training and development was a core reason behind their charity’s skills gaps. Within fundraising, major donor fundraising (67%), online fundraising (66%) and corporate fundraising (64%) were the top three categories in need of most upskilling by small charities.
The main impact of these skills gaps on the charity included an increased workload for colleagues (59%), increased time to deliver work (46%) and decreased ability to take on new work (43%).
Without streamlining our fundraising practices, we are impacting on our ability to maximise our fundraising efforts. Therefore, securing training and support from free and highly subsidised support organisations, like the FSI or your local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), is essential to increase your fundraising success.
Dedicated to you: Small Charity Week
In addition to the FSI’s learning programme, we also organise the annual Small Charity Week campaign, which is taking place during the 19-24 June. Providing a range of virtual activities and events across the country, this is a perfect opportunity for charities and community organisations with a turnover under £1.5m to raise their profile and increase donations.
Each day of the week is themed to maximise the opportunity for small charities to benefit. These include:
I Love Small Charities Day: Three social media competitions to win funds for your charity.
Big Advice Day: Free advice on any charity topic of your choosing from experts across the sector and business leaders, including access to a fundraising panel.
Policy Day: Small charities are invited to a trustee reception in Westminster.
Fundraising Day: Take part in free competitions and initiatives to raise vital funds for your small charity and join events to improve your knowledge on fundraising topics, including the FSI’s annual Fundraising Conference.
Small Charity Big Impact Day: Small charities and the fantastic impact they make will be highlighted via the FSI’s Small Charity Big Impact Awards.
Celebration Day: Get involved and run an event to help raise awareness of and celebrate your amazing work.
Conchita Garcia is head of projects and fund development at The FSI