Small Charities We Love #SmallCharityWeek
20 June 2022 | By Rebecca Ward
Small Charity Week celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector, which makes an invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world. In honour of #SmallCharityWeek, we have chosen to highlight a few examples of small charities doing excellent work across the UK, focusing on the themes of diversity, Covid-19, digital, and young people.
Firstly, here are some headline statistics about small charities in the UK:
- 97% of the UK’s 166,000 charities are small (with an annual income of <£1m)
- The small charity sector’s economic impact is £9.5bn
- There are on average 4 volunteers per 1 member of staff in small charities
- 50% of small charities work in education and schools
- 18% of small charities work in arts and culture
So, with an awareness of the #SmallYetMighty impact of our small charities, let’s take a closer look at some more specific examples.
According to the latest Charity Commission research, less than 1 in 10 (8%) of charity Trustees are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 14% of the population. This is just one example of how diversity in the charity sector still needs to improve. It’s hard to know why - studies have shown that organisations with greater diversity in leadership are more innovative, more likely to have financial returns above their industry average, and are eight times more likely to achieve positive business outcomes.
One small charity leading the way in this respect is Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), which provides support to female sex workers through a range of confidential and non-judgemental services. The Board brings a wide range of valuable professional expertise and skills, relevant lived experiences shared with the charity’s beneficiaries, and a diverse range of other protected characteristics.
The Board used a skills audit to find trustees with skills in areas that it lacks, with a recruitment process that also prioritises improving diversity and inclusivity so that it is more representative of the charity’s intended beneficiaries and wider community. The Trustees have also been conscious of embedding equality and diversity values at the heart of the charity’s operational and decision-making processes. With a turnover of <£700k, MASH is a great example of a small charity making a powerful impact with regards to representation and diversity – both in terms of its governance and day-to-day practice.
Stay up to date with the charity’s news and impact via Twitter at @MASHManchester
Response to Covid-19
Many charities have shown incredible resilience and tenacity to support those most in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. One small charity that worked hard to ensure its services remained open and consistent for its local communities is Tomorrow’s Women Wirral.
Based in The Wirral, the charity’s services include personal development, qualifications and training, activities, and access to specialist services such as sexual health clinics. As part of its emergency delivery model, they adopted a number of measures to ensure the centre remained safe as well as developing new digital projects.
In response to research by UNICEF that showed that 43% of young women feel pessimistic about their future post-covid, and that 1 in 2 young women reported feelings of anxiety, the charity also developed a new scheme specifically to support young women. Funded by Merseyside Police’s Project Medusa, Tomorrow’s Young Women offered interventions and support to help young women aged 14-17 to make positive life choices to improve their wellbeing and lives.
Stay up to date with the charity’s news and impact on Twitter at @TomorrowsWomen
Ensuring that your organisation is digitally savvy is a crucial part of any charity’s business strategy, but it can sometimes be thought of as a costly extra that is available only to charities which benefit from more resources. One small charity which is challenging this idea is Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham.
Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation was aware of the growing issues of digital poverty amongst older people (in 2018, the charity reported that 35% of over 65s were offline, had lapsed or had never used the internet), and trustees had developed long-term strategic plans to counter this. The board recognised an immediate capability gap, so proactively recruited a trustee with a senior IT background to help spearhead a digital strategy and launched its Digital Inclusion Project.
Now in its third year, the Digital Inclusion Project has reached thousands of older people to help them with their digital skills, including housebound residents via phone or video call during the Covid-19 crisis. Many of its sessions continue to run via Zoom, in accordance with the wants and needs of those learning. This is a great example of a small charity placing digital at the heart of both its mission and its beneficiaries’ needs.
Stay up to date with the charity’s news and impact via Twitter at @AgeUKHF
Powered by Young People
Founded in 2006 by a group of young people who wanted to have a say in the way local infrastructure was provided, Leaders in Community (LiC) is a small youth-led charity based in Tower Hamlets. The charity offers a year-round programme designed around leadership, activism and governance that is free and accessible to all young people.
On setting up the charity, Founder and CEO, Momtaz Ajid, said:
"After I finished my degree, I struggled with low self-esteem and getting into youth work totally changed that. It was important to me to give back to the community and support others from a Bangladeshi background in the community. I wanted to do something a bit different and didn’t want to do the same thing that had been done before. That’s where Leaders In Community came from."
90% of the charity’s management committee members are aged 16-30 (there are some exceptions for if you are an existing volunteer or board member), demonstrating to small charities across the UK the powerful impact of young people in leadership.
Check out the charity’s most recent work on Twitter at @LiC_Projects
Some of the examples above were also celebrated at the Charity Governance Awards 2022, organised by our mainTrustee Leadership Programme partner, The Clothworkers Company. You can find out more about the awards and the other shortlisted charities here.
Are you celebrating the #PowerOfSmall this week? Let us know on Twitter at @OfficialCause4!