Small Charities in England Running on Empty

18 Oct 2013

Small Charities in England ‘Running on Empty’

Small charities in England are experiencing a 64% increase in demand for their services while seeing a drop in voluntary income, according to a new report published today/Fri – amid fears they are increasingly ‘running on empty’.

The Small Charity Index – the first of its kind, which was created by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) and launched in June during Small Charity Week at an event hosted by Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd – has been collecting data from 288 charities across England.

And according to its first quarterly review, which is published today:

  • One in 10 small charities nationwide fear closure in the next 12 months
  • One in five is experiencing a decline in donations
  • A quarter of small charities are operating without any reserves

Asked how confident they are of delivering their services over the next 12 months, on a scale of 1 (“not at all confident”) to 10 (“very confident”), 17% of small charities in England said “between 1-5”.

And of those small charities in England holding reserves, 28% dipped into their reserves to some extent in the previous month.

One small charity currently facing such difficulties is the Ulysses Trust, which helps young people plan and undertake challenging overseas expeditions and adventurous training activities, by providing support for members of the Volunteer Reserve Forces and Cadet Forces of the UK.

Founded in 1992, it has supported over 1,500 expeditions to the tune of around £1.5 million, with funds coming from a variety of sources and benefactors – but is now facing an overwhelming demand which it cannot match against income.

Philip Neame, a trustee of the Ulysses Trust, said: “We have had a record year helping 2,500 participants on 128 expeditions, yet sadly donations have not matched the rapid growth in demand for our support.

“This is a difficult time for the trust as our support can help bring about a real transformation to the lives of many we support, particularly those from inner city areas.”

Another charity facing challenges is the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, a national charity which supports anyone working with young people to provide high quality educational experiences.

Beth Gardner, chief executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, said: “The impact of increased demand versus a decline in income is a real challenge. Everyone is putting in the extra mile just to get the job done, but we face a real struggle.

“We hugely value the work of the FSI, providing us with valuable support to enable us to continually develop our services at a time when the tanks are on empty.”

The FSI is the small charity that supports thousands of small charities to keep their doors open, giving them the tools they need to support children, young people, men, women and families, both nationally and internationally.  It provides £2.2m-worth of services delivered for free every year, and has an active membership of 2,600 charities and 3,000 individual members involved in the sector.

Pauline Broomhead, CEO of the FSI, said: “Many small charities are running on empty – and many more are using their reserves month-on-month.  This clearly sends out a warning signal to society not to take charities for granted, as they may not be there forever.”

The FSI runs free, monthly advice sessions, which can identify the issues small charities face, and provide short term fixes and more long term solutions.

Pauline Broomhead added: “Small charities are the glue that holds society together – and without them to ‘fill the gaps’ left by statutory and other sources, those who need our help the most will suffer.  They can thrive in the current climate, but they need the support, knowledge and tools to do so.  The FSI is here to give them that support, share with the knowledge and provide tools for them to become self-sustaining

“We can’t let small charities fail as they are part of the rich tapestry of the capital’s compassionate and caring society.”


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