It’s easy to feel overlooked as a small local charity but, as Lee Grant explains, being bigger is not necessarily the key to doing better
Recent research by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) shows that the impact of the recession has been felt more strongly by large charities than small ones, causing an upsurge in recognition of the importance of local charities.
The findings show that voluntary income of large charities, which CAF categorises as those with revenue of over £10m, fell by nearly 11 per cent, or £84m, between 2007 and 2009. Whereas small and medium-sized charities, defined by CAF as those with an income between £500k and £10m, have seen their voluntary donations increase by 2.2 per cent over the same period.
The relative merits of large versus small charities have long been considered by fundraisers, but the sense of community engendered by local causes remains a powerful means of successful fundraising. Small local causes are able to build relationships with local businesses and community groups. And they are often strong at supporting volunteers and mobilising support in their localities.
This notion is also supported by the current localism agenda. Government is keen to champion services which have been designed and delivered at a grassroots level, and this priority reflects the crucial role that local charities, in particular, provide to our sector. Politically, it’s about strengthening communities and putting more power in the hands of local authorities.
Small charity, big support
There is a similar ethos behind the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) membership community network. The Regional and Special Interest groups represent a plethora of fundraising activity across the UK; legacies, research in fundraising, faith-based fundraising; as well as regional activity including upcoming events in the South-East and West, North West and also East Anglia. By working together to host networking events in specific geographic locations or on particular subjects, between charities large and small, while delivering cost effective training and sharing learning, surely we all become stronger.
My challenge as head of membership communities at the IoF is ensuring that our groups continue to extend the IoF’s outreach beyond head office to the charities that need it most. A key part of my role is conducting a strategic review of IoF communities and this means making sure that our groups receive the resources and support to continue to benefit all fundraisers. Of course, in order to achieve such a priority, we need the input of all of our members and want to know what we can do to better support you as fundraisers? Is there anything more that we can provide to help you do a better job?
All of this comes at a good time, with new leadership under Peter Lewis, our chief executive, the IoF has already been selected as one of the Office for Civil Society’s strategic partners. One of the specific roles this responsibility entails is empowering local charities to fundraise effectively. This means bringing fundraising training to the heart of the regions and, specifically, giving smaller charities – those at the heart of the Big Society – the tools they need to raise money through popular fundraising techniques, while utilising the appropriate tax reliefs such as Gift Aid and payroll giving.
Large and small charities rely on their networks, on information sharing and knowledge and use of the central fundraising techniques. The IoF facilitates this through our community network, cost-effective training and our overall consultative approach. Government is keen to put power in the hands of individual agents of change – which I would argue also puts fundraising communities in a position of significant influence.
Lee Grant is head of membership communities at the Institute of Fundraising
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser, Issue 10, October 2011