Adrian Masters: Why We All Need to Recognise the Uniqueness of Small Charities

Adrian Masters is a consultant for our Enhance Programme, where he helps our charities build their social impact and financial sustainability. He is also a trustee for our grantee BACA. In this blog he shares what’s on his 2019 wish list for small charities.  

Over the last 12 years I have supported numerous small to medium sized charities, developing business plans, funding strategies, helping with governance and financial sustainability. I constantly come across staff stretched to their limits and doing an incredible job with limited resources. What keeps them going? The difference they make to the clients. Those “thank you for being there” and “you saved my life” moments.

I count myself fortunate to have met and talked with people whose lives have been changed by small charities and their distinctive, highly personal approach.

The uniqueness of these small charities seems to be their ability to treat everyone as individuals, accept them whatever their current situation, and to put them first. They spend the time needed to build trust and relationships with hurting people, it’s not something you can rush. This creates an environment within which client’s confidence and self-respect can be rebuilt. I think  it is only from this that sustainable change can be made, a move away from substance abuse, coming to terms with being a survivor of sexual violence or the motivation to work hard at changing deep seated negative self-beliefs.

I count myself fortunate to have met and talked with people whose lives have been changed by small charities and their distinctive, highly personal approach. I’d love to see the sector enabled to do more, rather than having to battle to stay afloat.

The uniqueness of these small charities seems to be their ability to treat everyone as individuals, accept them whatever their current situation, and to put them first.

So on my Christmas list is more recognition of their value from government and funders, more funding, and more support to help them grow and develop whilst not losing the very distinctiveness of what makes their services so special.

A good starting point would be an influx of high-quality trustees who ‘get’ small charities and additional help in weaker skill areas; obviously this varies from charity to charity, after all they are all individuals just like those they support! However marketing and communications, fundraising (other than grants), HR, monitoring and evaluation are often areas where additional support would appear beneficial.

Finally I hope that all those working in small charities have a chance to relax this Christmas, and I wish them a successful 2019.

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