At Minerva we work almost exclusively with small charities, many of which UK-wide are suffering from the reduction in statutory funding in recent years. Nowhere is this more noticeable than our Northamptonshire base, where we live in the only (as yet!) bankrupt county council in England.

Small charities have long found it difficult to raise corporate sponsorship, as most major companies want a high degree of publicity and exposure which only large charities operating throughout the UK can provide.

This week the Institute of Fundraising highlighted the raw deal that small charities receive from the organisers of the London Marathon. Owing to the system of “bonds”, established major charities are guaranteed places with no cut-off – and this makes it extremely hard for small charities to break into this market and get places in the Marathon.

Despite the fact that small charities provide much-needed services to disadvantaged people in their region, they are often elbowed out by larger charities or indeed commercial organisations. As one of Minerva’s clients found recently, a business providing the same services as they do – but on a UK-wide basis – was able to offer a more competitive (but undoubtedly unsustainable) price in order to win a local authority contract. Cash-strapped Councils often opt for the lowest tenders, despite the fact that low prices and effective care for vulnerable people are often incompatible.

What is to be done?

The organisers of the London Marathon have recently agreed to review their system which we hope will result in a more level playing field for small charities.

More and more local authorities are coming to realise that cheapest isn’t best – or even acceptable. But small charities need to carry on a continuous campaign of lobbying councils to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged people receive the services they deserve.

Much can be achieved in the corporate sector through the personal contacts of small charities’ Trustees, volunteers and supporters. Some years ago one of Minerva’s clients received a substantial sum from one of the major banks thanks to a contact with the bank’s chief executive. It is extremely unlikely that such a small charity would have been successful without this personal contact. The old adage: “People give to people, they don’t give to charities” is true in many cases, and Trustees and volunteers should not be reticent in using they contacts they have for their charity’s benefit.