The Small Charities Coalition (SCC) has begun a consultation on introducing a membership fee.
It proposes charging £12 per year for small charities and organisations, and £24 for supporters and charities with an annual income of over £1m.
SCC now has a national membership of more than 14,000, so if all paid the £12 fee, it would raise £168,000.
SCC says that since the Covid-19 outbreak, it has supported nearly as many small charities and organisations as it did throughout the whole of 2019-20.
It is running a survey to ask members for their views on this fee proposal.
A statement reads: “As a small charity ourselves, we are heavily reliant on funding from grantmaking trusts. We do not have the commercial opportunities of other large infrastructure agencies that work with bigger, wealthier charities and are better able to take advantage of commercial opportunities.
“As all good organisations do, the staff and trustees have been looking at alternative models of funding, and we would like to explore the introduction of a small membership fee.”
Membership would entitle organisations and supporters to a members area of the website, specialist mailings, a discount on all training and other special targeted offers as they arise.
The statements adds: “We also recognise that the bureaucracy in making payments in small charities can also sometimes be very difficult, and we will ourselves also be assessing if the introduction of a fee is practical and viable for us as an organisation.”
Subject to the findings of this consultation, SCC is proposing to undertake a pilot between October 2020 and March 2021.
‘As an organisation we have no preference for any specific outcome’
Rita Chadha, chief executive of SCC, said: “SCC is exploring the option of introducing a membership fee. We are one of the few organisations left who do not charge a fee for our services, we simply want to get a feel for what members think.
“Our priority is and will always be the needs of small charities, but we have noticed substantive growth in our membership amongst both micro, small organisations and larger agencies and consultants. In just over a year we have increased our membership from 9,000 to 14,500.
“Increasingly it is disheartening for us to see our work plagiarised, without acknowledgement or reference, and used by larger and organisations with multi million turnovers. We are keen to work with all those that have a real commitment to supporting small charities, but we can't afford to subsidise larger charities and commercial enterprises.
“However, we are also conscious that the introduction of a fee could also cause huge problems for us, as a small charity ourselves. The administrative task of managing 15,000 plus members would be a challenge for us.
“Most of our peers have membership officers and whole departments to manage this. This would require us to think carefully if the introduction of a membership fee would be cost neutral and offer any substantive benefits.
“As an organisation we have no preference for any specific outcome and are genuinely excited by the engagement opportunities that arise. The jury is definitely out.”
Data for the financial year ending 31 March 2019 puts SCC's income at £350,000 and spending at £356,000.