Small Charity Skills Survey 18-19

Skills gaps still present a major barrier for small local charities and community organisations across the UK, with more training still cited as a solution to the problem.  However as one size will not fit all, the challenge for umbrella support bodies who provide training is to flex their delivery models to meet the needs of small and local charities and community groups. We must come together to offer a blended learning experience, meeting the needs of those who live in well-connected urban centres to those who live and work in rural settings, to respond to the requirements of paid staff and the differing

requirements of volunteers, and to those who prefer or require distance learning to those who seek face to face support.  Read the Small Charity Skills Survey 18/19.

Executive Summary

  • Skills areas with the poorest performance ratings include lobbying (57%), government relations (54%) and the latest HR laws (52%).
  • Skills areas which respondents rated strongly include basic IT skills (76%), organisational skills (76%) and people management (72%).
  • Fundraisers remain the most challenging vacancy to recruit for, according to 23% of small charities.
  • Salary is the most commonly cited barrier to why vacancies are hard to fill, identified by 18% of respondents.
  • In fundraising, legacy fundraising (72%), online fundraising (70%) and major donor fundraising (69%) were the top three categories in need of most upskilling by small charities.
  • Trustee governance (28%) was selected as the area that most needed upskilling amongst trustees.
  • 75% of small charities believe trustees ought to play an active role in fundraising, while only 46% actually do play an active role.
  • Within financial management, 36% believed fundraising required the most development.
  • Business planning (28%) was identified as the area requiring most upskilling by management specialists.
  • Within the field of public policy, 57% indicated lobbying as requiring the greatest upskilling.
  • Website development (43%) was selected as needing further upskilling the most within IT.
  • First aid was indicated by 27% of respondents as requiring further upskilling within Health and Safety.
  • In marketing and communications, structuring communication plans was identified by 50% of respondents as needing upskilling.
  • Securing resources (36%), such as sponsorship and income, was selected as the area requiring greatest upskilling by respondents in project management roles.
  • Lack of funding for training and development (64%) and lack of time available for employees to attend training (51%) remain as the primary causes for skills gaps within their small charity.
  • The main impacts of skills gaps identified were an increased workload for colleagues (48%), increased time to
    deliver work (45%) and decreased ability to take on new work (42%).
  • The most common action believed to be the best solution, and also taken to address skills gaps, was further training provision (47%).
  • Only 16% perceived using volunteers instead of paid employees as a solution, yet 36% took this as an action to address skills gaps.
  • The majority (69%) reported having a formal business plan, but only 15% have an annual training plan linked to the business plan.


As previously stated, they support those most in need and so must be supported themselves to continue to carry out the services they deliver. Both government and other public funders should take action to ensure that they give these charities the opportunity to be self sustaining through investment in building their capacity to thrive, part of which is the development of skills across the sector.

1) Government and other public funders to take the lead by demonstrating long-term commitment to affordable skills development and capacity building. 

It has been proven time and time again that smaller charities and community groups are a clear route to accessing and supporting the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Government and other funders, especially the vital Trusts, Foundations, Livery Companies and other private funders, play a vital role in ensuring the health of civil society and their ability to make long-term funding commitments is therefore crucial. We ask Government and private funders to invest in developing the skills of smaller charities to ensure their future.

2) Infrastructure organisations to come together to work collaboratively to ensure that the support they offer is connected, easily identified and accessible tailored to meet the diverse needs of smaller organisations. This should include a blend of face to face and remote learning so that smaller organisations who are not able to access face to face learning are also afforded opportunities to develop skills.  

Together infrastructure bodies can offer so much more and can ensure that more small charities are aware of the support that is available to them. We urge all infrastructure organisations to come together to share their programmes to ensure that as many small charities as possible are offered the opportunity to participate in skills development.

3) Trustees of smaller charities make a commitment to the organisational and personal development of both staff and volunteers withing their charities.  

We cannot expect others to invest in us if we do not take every opportunity to invest in ourselves.  We urge trustees to lead their organisation by making budgets available for trustee, staff and volunteer training. We urge those working in small charities to use all opportunities whether that be formal training or skills sharing between organisations, to increase their knowledge and skills.



  1. The report states that 952 small charities responded to the first 6 surveys – a total of 952 responses were received from 433 individual charities, as the data was collected through 6 different surveys.
  2. Section 2 ‘Fundraising’ received significantly higher responses (1,625 total from 810 individual charities) as it was collected from attendees at FSI training through existing pre-training survey mechanisms.