Anyone who works in the third sector will have seen the Small Charities Coalition (SCC) ceasing to be a few months ago. Blaming a lack of funding, the charitable organisation closed its doors at the end of 2021, after thirteen years spent helping smaller good causes and voluntary groups to grow and prosper. Its most prized asset, the SCC helpdesk, will continue, but under the umbrella of partner organisations.
As part of its legacy, the SCC released an evaluation report of the sector, which incorporates their thoughts and feedback from the small charities they helped before the organisation was wound up.
The closure of the SCC is a worry for many smaller charities, being the body they approached if they needed to be heard by funders. The SCC was their representative, their spokesperson, their collective voice.
Though larger, household name good causes appear to dominate the third sector, small charities actually make up the vast majority. However, they often lack the clout their larger competitors hold. When it comes to influencing social policy and flagging up to grant-makers that their criteria could be preventing the most disadvantaged from accessing crucial support, the SCC was a voice for the many. Without this organisation, individual charities are left to their own devices and it’s difficult for them to come together. This issue was highlighted in the SCC’s final report; they advocate for a similar body to represent smaller charities and voluntary groups across the UK going forward.
The SCC was also a one-stop-shop for advice and guidance. Their website was a fount of knowledge and it held many of the essential due diligence documents and checklists that small charities need to stay the right side of the sector’s regulatory body, the Charity Commission. The SCC endeavoured to have meaningful relationships with as many of its members as possible, which was the reason it was so embedded within the sector.
The SCC represented valued infrastructure, and a key message from its legacy report is the potential impact its disappearance will have. The SCC hopes that, in the future, funders will shift their mindset from focusing on end measures and impact to the support small charities need to achieve good outcomes; they want decision-makers to consider the process just as much as results.
I do think that the sector is more focused on quick wins and instant impact than long-term investment, and this seems to be echoed in the SCC’s findings. Their demise is symptomatic of this.
Four key suggestions were put forward in the SCC’s report, aimed at grant-makers, to ensure they’re better aligned in the future with the small charities they profess to support. These suggestions were:
· If you support or fund small charities, say so upfront
· Take time to understand and tune into the reality of being a small charity
· Build trust by creating space for relationships
· Think small, advocate ambitiously
Given that the demand for charities’ services has risen, because of the pandemic, and that pots of funding are scarcer in the current economy, any help small charities can get is welcome indeed. It really is a shame that it’s at this point the SCC couldn’t raise funds for their own operations, as they would have been in even more demand over the coming months and years.
Feedback from SCC’s critics suggests the organisation wasn’t as integral to the sector as it may have believed, and that small charities will be able to access the help they need from other sources. Whether this is the case or not, only time will tell. If, as the SCC warns, their absence from the sector has a significant negative impact, all their thirteen years of hard work will have been in vain. Small charities will be back to square one.