Small charity infrastructure body to close due to funding constraints 

15 Mar 2023 News

Trustees at the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) will formally wind up the infrastructure charity, due to funding issues, it announced today.

The aim is to close the charity in Spring 2023, and trustees say they will look to secure ongoing support for small charities through other means.  

FSI had recently partnered with NCVO to deliver the legacy of the Small Charities Coalition, after it closed down in 2022.

According to Charity Commission data for the financial year ending 30 June 2021, total income was £438,790 and total expenditure was £411,346. In 2018 both income and expenditure were more than £600,000.

‘Extremely disappointed’

A statement from FSI trustees reads: “It has proved increasingly challenging to balance delivering the training and support we provide to members with the funding received from the multiple streams pursued by the FSI’s leadership. 

“We are extremely disappointed that yet another infrastructure charity must close at a time when supporting these organisations is so vital.”

The FSI said that since it was established the challenge of sustainability while retaining accessibility for members, has “hampered” its work, despite the rising demand for services. 

“This challenge has finally become too significant to continue,” the statement reads.

FSI was the charity behind Small Charity Week and reached nearly 9,000 small charities with member offers and trained thousands of individuals across the country. 

Trustees said: “As we progress our closure, we will look to respectfully wind down contractual arrangements between partners, suppliers and sponsors. We will do our utmost to support our staff in the coming months to look for work and ensure their wellbeing.”

They added: “We acknowledge how difficult this news may be to receive. FSI would not have existed without our members and we have been so proud to promote the contribution of small charities for the past fifteen years.

“We hope our legacy is that the needs of small charities are permanently at the top of the sector’s agenda.”

‘We have flagged our concerns to DCMS’

Sarah Vibert, chief executive of NCVO, said: “We’re extremely saddened about the closure of FSI, not only what it means for their organisation and staff, but also what it signifies for the wider infrastructure sector. 

“This news will come as a further blow to small charities, after the Small Charities Coalition closure last year.”
Vibert said NCVO is committed to ensuring the specialist support FSI provides is not lost and will work with FSI trustees, partner organisations and funders over the coming weeks.

“We were already working to deliver the Small Charity Week campaign with the FSI this year and are actively talking to our civil society group partners about this,” she said.
Vibert added: “Infrastructure is a vital part of the voluntary sector ecosystem, providing support, connection and voice to government, so charities can focus on delivering their mission. These are all crucial during crisis, but we also know the current cost-of-living crisis means that voluntary organisations have to carefully account for every penny spent.
“We have flagged our concerns to DCMS about the sustainability of voluntary sector infrastructure following the closure of two national infrastructure bodies and in light of the 360 Giving report.” 

Maddy Desforges, chief executive at NAVCA, said: “We look forward to working with NCVO to continue to support small charities, through our membership network of 182 local infrastructure organisations. Our members are well connected into their local communities where most small charities and community groups work, and we look forward to continuing to support them.”

‘This is the time for close collaboration’

Amanda Tincknell, Cranfield Trust chief executive said: “It’s been very sad to hear that The FSI will close this spring, another vital infrastructure body lost to the sector.  The recent report from 360Giving showed how infrastructure is falling behind – numbers of infrastructure organisations are dropping, at a time when frontline organisations need all the support they can get.  Demand is strong: at Cranfield Trust we receive hundreds of enquiries a year, and reach thousands with our services.

“This is the time for close collaboration: those of us in the second tier need to work more closely to make the most of our resources, identify gaps in support and together address them, and critically, ensure that we stay current with sector needs.

“The development of the Pro Bono Association in partnership with Pilotlight and Reach Volunteering has been a highly positive step in understanding the range of free support open to charities – its members bring expertise on subjects from legal matters to marketing, tech and impact assessment.  The Association is currently developing a database of services to improve referrals between member organisations, with the aim of helping more charities easily find the right support.”

She added: “It’s a real blow to the sector to lose great services, organisations and colleagues, especially at this challenging time.  Let’s find ways of working together to keep supporting the frontline, and to champion infrastructure, a vital resource for our sector.”

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