New Offering Released for Small Charities to Support MEL Efforts

Lauren Schwaar and Angela Schlenkoff-Hus – 27 June 2024

As Small Charity Week approaches, inFocus is working to revitalise support for small charities operating in an increasingly difficult development landscape.

Photo credit: Ivan Radic

The small charity experience

According to data from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), “Communities [across the UK] are supported by over 166,000 voluntary organisations, the majority of them small. 92% of our members are charities with an income under £1 million, and most have an income of under £30,000.”

The designation “Small Charity” is usually defined as an entity with an annual income less than £1M. The vast majority of small charities in the UK have an income much smaller than that figure (usually well less than £100,000 as mentioned above). A large percentage of these small charities operate with “minimal or no paid professional administrative and/or financial support staff” (Small Charity Support). 

In a recent report released by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), “Smaller charities are ‘consistently unseen, underfunded, and their impact unrecognised’ due to their size and focus on delivery” (Civil Society). And unfortunately, this reality seems to be intensifying. Vital support organisations for small charities including the Small Charities Coalition, Coalition for Efficiency and The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) have had to close over the last year due to financial pressures. These losses have significantly decreased available resources for charities.

“Smaller charities are ‘consistently unseen, underfunded, and their impact unrecognised’ due to their size and focus on delivery”

Small charities now find themselves in a much more vulnerable position than in recent years, lacking many of the support channels that had previously been available to them. This is a huge problem not only for the organisations themselves but for the countless communities that rely on small charities for vital services and support.

Communities are reliant on small charities

For many communities in the UK (and further afield), small charities have proven lifelines to many disadvantaged areas and demographics. Especially during the upheaval of the past three to five years, small charities have proven more able to respond quickly and effectively to shifting environments than their larger counterparts. “Small charities showed up and stuck around and they worked quickly and flexibly … they were a consistent and trusted presence. They showed incredible absorptive and adaptive capacity” (Lloyds Bank Foundation; full report here). To leave small charities in the precarious position in which they currently find themselves would be disastrous not just for the development ecosystem but for communities across the UK that rely on their efforts.

New resources being made available for small charities

In light of these realities, inFocus is releasing new support opportunities specifically geared for small charities. We specialise in supporting charities large and small with the MEL process. Robust MEL efforts can meaningfully bolster fundraising and engagement efforts for small charities, creating new resourcing opportunities and heightening success rates in raising funds. Good MEL practice can also help charities better understand the support needs of their communities as well as improve their organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

These benefits should be available to every charity. Thus, especially in celebration of Small Charity Week this year, inFocus will be releasing a new and improved version of its free “Foundations in Impact Measurement” e-learning course that provides MEL training for all small charities that want to bolster their MEL efforts.

inFocus has also created a new low-cost CoPilot support service geared specifically for small charities and their needs that offers MEL expertise and guidance at a fraction of the cost of more traditional tender or consultancy processes. These efforts are meant to help fill the void left by shuttered charity support organisations and increasingly restricted budgets and funding.