Funders should ‘show confidence in small charities and encourage honesty’

30 Sep 2019 News

Funders need to show confidence in small charities and create an atmosphere of honesty to help bulid resilience, a report by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has said.

The report, titled How funders can do more to support the resilience of small charities, was launched last Friday. It is based on findings from a pilot project which aims to help small charities to safeguard their long-term survival and ensure the continuation of the services they provide.

Ten small-to-medium-sized charities across the UK have been receiving grant funding and advice through CAF’s programme.

Beth Clarke, manager of the programme at CAF, said: “We see the programme as a stepping stone in a wider campaign, one that encourages small charities to have a more prominent voice with funders, charitable trusts and the government.”

Several charities concluded that delivering on their mission meant doing less and not more, with a renewed focus on quality and impact. They also said managing income generation is one of the most stubborn challenges they face. 

Five recommendations

The programme has five core recommendations for funders:

  • Fund small charities to focus on their organisational strength and resilience: time with an independent adviser will help them to identify what they really need.
  • Build long-term relationships with small charities: multi-year funding with agreed outcomes but flexibility offers stability as charities get to grips with their plans to become more resilient for the future.
  • Show confidence in small charities and create an atmosphere of honesty: encourage the charity to be honest about what does or doesn’t work and where their skills gaps lie.
  • Recognise that you might not be able to “see” your funding working: organisational strength is not bricks and mortar but can offer unseen benefits with real impact.
  • Recognise that building partnerships takes time and therefore money: exploring partnerships to become more effective is not a quick process, but with a clear strategy, they can pay off in the long term.

Clarke said while it might not be the first thing people think of when they plan to fund a charity, this approach to building for the future is critical, as is inspiring more major donors to support charities in this way.

“This will ensure that these services that so many people depend upon will survive. In uncertain times, organisational resilience has perhaps never been more crucial for small charities across the UK.”

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: “This is a vitally important and essential read for both funders and small charities. CAF's resilience report is an honest look at both the challenges and needs of small charities.

“CAF's work with small charities and the variety of diverse case studies in the report demonstrates  exactly why it is important to ask the right questions, create positive relationships with grantees, and identify the right tools and the right time to work with small charities.

“In focusing on resilience, and forcing funders to 'show more confidence' in small charities, the report makes a welcome and vital contribution to helping levelling the playing field between big and small charities.”  

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