Index August 2018:  Food for thought 

The Small Charity Index is the FSI’s quarterly ‘Pulse of the Sector’ report and has been collecting data every three months since June 2013. The report looks at income, service delivery, workforce and governance, allowing us to track the trends, challenges and opportunities emerging across the sector.   

The most urgent challenge facing charities continues to be the high demand for services, leaving charities making difficult decisions daily on who they are able to give support to and how that support is delivered.  This challenge will not be overcome easily unless charities are able to meet their future sustainability challenge and look at new ways of funding services. And so, we look forward to seeing how the newly launched Civil Society Strategy is turned into actions to support small charities to overcome this. 

Here is a quick summary of a few of this quarter’s key findings, and what that means for the sector: 

Civil Society Strategy Survey 

In February of this year the Government launched a survey so that all charities could have their say on how the Government could work with and for civil society, to tackle challenges and unlock opportunities to build a stronger society now and in the future.  

The Strategy hopes to encourage businesses to support the civil sector. We asked how you would like to see this and over half of you feel you could work more closely to deliver services. Almost three quarters said that you would benefit from sharing facilities and information with businesses. We look forward to seeing the Strategy become actions to benefit the whole of society. 


This quarter, income has remained largely static across all three types, with 49% of respondents reporting no change in voluntary income, 81% reporting no change in statutory income and 71% reporting no change in earned income. The biggest increase has (again) been seen in earned income, with almost a quarter of respondents reporting an increase in this!  

Service Delivery 

Since June 2013, our Index data shows that demand for services from small local charities has increased by 147%. In March to May 2018, 57% of respondents reported that they had experienced an increase in demand for services, continuing the trend over the past 12 months. 


As mentioned, income for small charities has remained mostly static during March – May this year. Therefore, it is unsurprising that funding, workload and demand for services are listed as the top three challenges ahead as small charities are doing their best to keep their heads above water to deliver their vital services.  

It’s also no surprise that the number of charities reporting an increased use of reserves is up by 9% on the last quarter to 39%, showing that charities are dipping into their reserves to meet demand in a climate of relatively static income. Consequently, it is more important than ever for charities to consider their fundraising strategy and increase income. The FSI’s programme of free and heavily subsidised training continues to be shaped by this demand, delivering a range of courses specifically to support small charities.

Despite this, morale within the sector is high, with 82% of respondents reporting staff motivation as good or excellent, showing what no matter what the challenges they face, small charities continue to demonstrate resilience and determination.  

Have your say: 

The FSI can only amplify the voice of small charities if you take part in our Index survey. The survey is open four times a year, with prizes for those who take part in more than one.  

Click here to sign up to the Index mailing list so you’re the first to know when the survey is open. 

Ellie Lynch is a Project Officer for the Policy & Special Projects team at the FSI.