March 2022 marked the end of an era, as the Small Charities Coalition (SCC) closed its doors for good. Hundreds of people listened to the voices and experiences of small charities by joining their final celebration event ‘The Power of Small’ or reading their ‘Small and Mighty’ follow-up report.
If you haven’t seen the report yet, it’s well worth a read. There are lots of interesting reflections on the value and future of small charity infrastructure support, as well as an announcement to bring relief to many: SCC’s free HelpDesk and Charity Set Up Tool will continue under the new joint stewardship of the NCVO and FSI.
The question of how the sector secures long-term funding for this type of vital infrastructure support, and how we can get people to value it, still looms large. I was really hoping the report would tackle this head-on, but it doesn’t really say anything new - that’s a disappointment, but a topic for another day.
The report outlines four Small Principles for those working with, funding and supporting small organisations. The first of these is ‘If you support or fund small charities, say so upfront.’ The context is that the small charities surveyed for the final report overwhelmingly said they trusted SCC because it was explicitly set up to support small charities, as well as being a small charity itself. While many organisations offer support and services to small charities as part of a much broader programme, this rarely inspires the same confidence.
This is a really important point, and on reflection something we at Lime Green need to say more clearly on our website and elsewhere. While we don’t work solely with small charities, they were the original reason why we started, and remain the main audience for our consultancy, training and resources.
So in response to Small Principle #1, this blog is about one thing: showing that we're here for small charities.
We could never, and don’t want to, replicate the broad suite of support and services offered by an organisation like SCC. There’s loads we don’t do, in which case we'll always signpost to others. But if you need something that we do provide, I hope you’ll feel able to come to us with confidence. Here’s why:
Our experience is small charity to the core. My entire time as a charity employee and trustee was with charities with a turnover below £1million. As a guide, in the past three years nearly three-quarters of our consultancy clients have been either registered charities or social enterprises below this turnover threshold, often significantly below it.
This small charity experience shapes how we work. I’ve personally felt that frustration when support is unintentionally alienating or irrelevant for small charities. You know, assumptions that you have a marketing budget, a ‘team’ of fundraisers, available reserves. Training that leaves you with plenty of ideas but no clue where or how to start implementing them. This frustration drives our approach - we always strive to be relevant and proportionate for small charities. It's great to get positive feedback about the quality of our work, but I’m equally proud that we’re seen as being friendly, flexible and kind - easy values and cliches to put on paper, but only meaningful when backed up by feedback.
We use expertise as a force for good. The knowledge and skills gained from working with a wide range of organisations can be a double-edged sword. Specialist expertise can solve problems, empower organisations and build confidence - but used incorrectly, it can overcomplicate things, demoralise people, and only serve to make the consultant look clever. We aim to do all of the former and none of the latter - in my experience, that's not as common in our sector as you'd think. While we do sometimes use specialist tools and frameworks (some designed ourselves, some borrowed from the business world), we’ll only do so if they genuinely solve a problem, and if we can explain to an organisation how to keep using them in-house. We strive to create practical content that make sense, and we’re vehemently anti-jargon - if you see us breaking these rules, please call us out!
We create free resources specifically for small charities. Too often, I feel like fundraisers and consultants operate in an echo chamber, endlessly recycling and debating issues that may be interesting but are ultimately irrelevant for small charities, who form the majority of the sector. While we do of course write and talk about topical issues, we do so with the explicit aim of demystifying them and being practically-minded:
We train hundreds of grassroots organisations each year. We work with partners that focus on serving small organisations, including the School for Social Entrepreneurs and various CVSs (Councils for Voluntary Services). We were also an approved trainer for SCC up until their closure. Again, you’ll see that our training feedback reflects our small charity focus - I love that we’re seen as being warm, friendly and approachable, as making groups feel comfortable, structuring content clearly, and giving encouragement to people who are already doing things well.
Working with us costs less if you're a small charity. We offer a guaranteed discount of 10-20% (depending on the service) on our consultancy fees for small registered charities. The work we do with larger organisations helps to subsidise this, as well as generating new learning and resources that we can then use and share more widely.
Thanks to the Small and Mighty report for outlining their four Small Principles for future small charity support. I hope we can rise to the challenge and do our bit.
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