Funders should improve support for small charities pursuing social change, says report

18 Mar 2020 News

Funders must make it easier for small charities engaging in social change work, according to new research from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR).

The report, Small Charities and Social Change by IVAR, looked at small charities from across the UK who are working to affect social change.

The researchers spoke with 11 organisations from four fields: criminal justice; homelessness; migration; and violence against women and girls. These case study organisations had annual incomes between £50,000 and just over £1m. 

All of the 11 charities were in receipt of funding from independent trusts and foundations, and some received statutory funding.

It looked at how small organisations engaging in social change work can strengthen their contribution, and how others can support them.

The research states that social change work is not an add-on and needs to be resourced. “Funders concerned with making a lasting difference need to recognise that, for small organisations, frontline service delivery and social change work can’t be separated – and they both need to be resourced.”

It suggests that one way of doing this is for funders to explicitly say they fund social change work, and to include a dedicated budget line in their application forms. 

Accessing funding for social change work was found to be “a real challenge”. Some thought that funders preferred frontline services where they could see a direct link to outcomes and impact, while others found it difficult to work out whether social change work would be eligible for particular funding or not. 

“For organisations working in more contested spaces, donations were a crucial income stream. Our organisations also found flexible, core funding particularly valuable, enabling a more dynamic and emergent approach,” the report states.

'Funders must recognise that frontline service delivery and advocacy are inextricably linked'

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy, communications and research at Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said: “This new research should give small charities confidence to continue in their vital social change work, and for others to give it a try. The report is also clear that funders should improve their support for small charities in this area through flexible, core-funding, specific resources for advocacy and using their voice and convening power.

“Social change work is not an add-on. To see lasting change, funders must recognise that frontline service delivery and advocacy are inextricably linked. At Lloyds Bank Foundation we are stepping up our own support for small charities to influence social change, we encourage other funders to do likewise.”


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