Small charities – for so long overlooked – are now firmly back in the frame following the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIOF)’s National Convention earlier this year.

Katie Docherty, the CIOF CEO, published a paper last month Remembering our ‘why’: a new strategy for the Chartered Institute. In it she outlines some of her plans and initiatives, one of which is:

Opening up organisational membership of the CIOF to small charities (voluntary income under £50k) for free so that we can be more reflective, accessible, and representative of the fundraising that happens across the UK.

This is good news – although restricting this offer to charities with an income of under £50k probably needs review soon in the current economic climate where the accepted definition of a “small” charity is one with an annual income of £1.5 million or less.

Following the CIOF National Convention discussion on whether small charities get a raw deal from funders, Linda Trew of Action Planning went to print at the end of July to point out that applying for grant funding costs charities £900 million a year, a sum which would be better spent on their beneficiaries.

This was followed by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IWAR)’s report Get the basics right, following their Funding Experience Survey. This highlighted a raft of problems experienced by small charities, many of which have no paid fundraising staff or retained consultants. Difficulties for small charities ranged from funders’ reluctance to give unrestricted funding to the number of “hoops” they need to jump through in order to access grants which, in many cases, are quite small.

There are, of course, 2 sides to every story. Many funders have very small teams of paid staff, often part-time; and charities need to appreciate the problems that these funders face, as well as highlighting their own.

Change is in the air. But change will only be effective if small charities and funders understand each other’s difficulties and problems, rather than simply concentrating on their own.