03
Sep

Expert Yet Undervalued And On The Front Line

Posted on: 03rd September 2015 at 00:00
Posted by: PANDA
Location: UK
Discipline: Other

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The challenges and opportunities facing smaller charities – in their own words. A new report by the Lloyds Bank Foundation. 

It’s built upon the responses of 800 grantees to a survey earlier in 2015. These small and medium sized charities tell the story of the intense and multiple challenges that they face, identifying key drivers leading to these pressures. It also highlights what funders and government need to do to enable small and medium sized charities to do what they do best: meet the needs of those most at risk. 

Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • 88% of charities have experienced a change in demand for their services – typically in terms of growing numbers and more complex issues to address. The closure of services elsewhere and welfare reform have been central this change.
  • At the same time, 81% are facing significant funding challenges.
  • 63% think it will get harder to secure funding over the next 2 years – this reaches a high of 70% in Wales.
  • Charities are responding to these challenges by trying to diversify their income. Charging for services, increasing fundraising from individuals or setting up a social enterprise are just some examples. But many of these alternatives – particularly social investment, much touted by Government - don’t work for smaller charities who lack the capacity to develop them or are not able to charge vulnerable clients.
  • Commissioning is proving a major challenge. The majority of charities bidding for contracts but 49% found the process difficult or impossible due to its complex and nature. 
  • Smaller charities find themselves placed at an unfair disadvantage in the commissioning process. The system favours scale and allows larger providers – both charities and companies – to undercut smaller charities and offer services at a lower unit cost. The services suffer as a result. 
  • Commissioning doesn’t value the local knowledge and understanding that smaller charities have and larger organisations often lack. Again, the services suffer as a result. 
  • In this tough environment, charities are unable to access the support they need. 67% site personal contacts as a source of support – far higher than other means as infrastructure organisations and local networks are cut back.

Independent funders and government need to step up and provide better support. It’s not necessarily about providing more money, but better money – recognising the vital role smaller charities play in society and the wider social value they bring. We need to level the playing field for small charities and ensure we have a fairer system for all.