Local Charities – Hard Life for Little Fish in the Fundraising Sea

Historically it has always been tough for the little guys, the grass roots, local charities. Small charities attract small income and it’s certainly not getting any easier! Local government cuts to spending have contributed to an overall reduction in income. A 2016 survey by NCVO states that smaller charities are subject to greater income volatility and that they are more likely to experience big rises and falls in income. Unfortunately this makes headlines like this commonplace:

SCILL closure headline

Source: Your Local Guardian

The table below, taken from the charity commission statistics, illustrates just how wide the gulf is between the income for the smaller charities to those well known large ones.

Charity Income Bands

Source: Charity Commission


My experience

I used to be a volunteer fundraiser for a new branch of a national charity.  Although the head Office funded the initial recruitment and training of the first course of 20 people, the newly formed branch was responsible for recruiting further volunteers to provide the counselling service and to run the day to day helpline and administrative tasks. It was also hoped that enough of the initial volunteers would be dedicated enough to form the management committee.  Whilst all this activity and huge commitment is necessary for any charity in the early days, we set our sights high, hoping that we could become self sustaining within six months or so.  Yet four years down the line our branch was closed.

So what caused it’s downfall?

Recruitment, training, nurturing and retaining of volunteers is costly and time consuming. Real long term commitment is hard to come by and those that are willing are often put upon by a desperate committee. Combat fatigue soon takes over and good volunteers are lost.

Funding is regularly available for projects with set objectives and measurable outcomes but is rarely forthcoming for day to day running costs. After a number of face to face fundraising events in supermarkets etc we were able to employ a part time admin worker. (We had tried, unsuccessfully, to find a volunteer for this position). Again however we were unable to raise enough funds to extend the contract.

The demand for the service was more than the organisation could hope to cope.  It was devastating for our volunteers to know that the need was so great yet our ability to provide it was sadly lacking.

IT was still in its infancy and although Head Office had a website, Facebook and Twitter were still a fantasy. However, even with today’s access to new communication channels, this tale is unfortunately still commonplace. Online platforms have opened up easy, digital methods of receiving donations that were previously only available to multinational charities with large IT teams. But if potential donors aren’t previously aware of a local charities work, then the payment methods go unused. And there is little that can compete with national TV, newspaper, magazine and now social media adverts.

But there is something that local charities have that could be used to their advantage, their proximity to donors. I don’t just mean the social connection they have, often the fruits of their labour are visible to the direct community, but in this case I mean their literal geographical proximity. There are mobile apps that use GPS location to show you local restaurants, shops, friends, tradesmen, even imaginary caches of imaginary items to catch imaginary monster! So perhaps it’s time for a location based donation platform?

google maps pin

Source: Google Places