It’s true, size really doesn’t matter
We all know the phrase ‘the best things come in small packages’ – well, being 5ft10 I’m not so sure that applies to me. But it’s true that the charity sector is full of fantastic small organisations delivering a big impact for those they serve. For Small Charity Week I wanted to reflect on the great work being done in Scotland and how small charities in Scotland can stand out.
The Small Charities Coalition defines a small charity as one with an annual income of less than £1 million. Of the more than 24,400 registered charities in Scotland, over 85% fit into this category. It cannot be denied that this plays a huge role in shaping Scotland’s charity sector, especially when it comes to fundraising.
How can a small charity stand out?
Not only are they trying to stand out against the huge multi-million-pound charities, but also against the other 21,000 small charities! There are many ways for small charities to make themselves stand out – but the key thing is to show-off the great work you are doing and connect people to your cause. This is when we see some of the most innovative and dedicated fundraising.
Every day, volunteers and staff across Scotland are thinking outside the box to make sure their charities stand out. Small charities can reach out to their communities using events – we've seen everything from postcard art exhibitions to paper plane competitions and worm charming contests – small charities are always trying new and exciting ways to fundraise.
Another great way a small charity can stand out is in its annual accounts. This is particularly helpful for grant applications. We are all used to seeing a boring set of numbers as a charity’s accounts. Isn’t it so much more interesting when those numbers tell a story? OSCR now features a link to charity accounts on its website and is actively encouraging charities to use this. This means you can directly show the impact of your fundraising in an easy-to-read format.
Is any of this working?
The charity sector is no different to the private sector in terms of small charities losing funding and closing down.
But we’re seeing a positive change in Scotland, and that’s down to the great work of our small charities. In 2017, there was an increase in donations driven by a small proportion of people giving more according to CAF’s Scotland Giving 2018 report. This could be for many reasons. But it’s key that many charities have been focusing on giving existing supporters an even better experience and inspiring them to give more.
Also, a recent OSCR survey in public trust showed the Scottish public trust local charities more than international charities.
This might seem like common sense but it’s a nice boost for charities who might feel they struggle against a big name in their service area.
What else can small charities do?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to fundraising which is why the Institute of Fundraising Academy has a whole selection of online courses to suit small charities.
It’s important to look at each small charity individually. Individuals can always develop their skills though, and these are a great tools for doing it.
But there's also no strict divide between small charities and larger ones. My favourite thing about the charity sector in Scotland is that fundraisers are always sharing resources, ideas and best practice. There's no reason why something that the biggest charities in Scotland are using couldn’t be tweaked to suit you.
Often, professional and personal development can be an after-thought when you are running a small charity. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. A lot of small charities can be reluctant to take time out to audit their fundraising efforts. But isn’t it worth taking a few weeks out to reap the benefits in the long term? It’s important to keep yourself and your charity focused on the bigger picture as well as the day-to-day actions.
Small charities have just as big an impact on their beneficiaries’ lives as big ones. Shout about it! Scotland really does love small charities!
Danielle Griffin, Administrative Officer at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland, and Secretariat for the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel.
Follow her on Twitter @DaniGriff12