Last month I attended the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s (NCVO’s) national conference in London. As usual, it was a well-worthwhile day with first rate speakers and good networking opportunities.


Other delegates I spoke to confirmed the results of NCVO’s research, published earlier in the month, that although the total income for the voluntary sector rose between 2012-13 and 2013-14 by £43 billion, the lion’s share of this went to the big charities, ie. those with an annual income of more than £100 million, which saw their incomes grow by 26%.


The smallest players – charities with an income of below £1 million per year – saw falls in income of between 0.7% and 3.6%. Yet the smallest charities represent the majority of the 160,000 charities in the UK – some 83%.


This is depressing news for small charities, the grouping that we at Minerva work with most closely.


On top of this, charities as a whole have lost more than £3.8 bn in reduced government grants over the past 10 years, a trend which is set to continue, if not to accelerate.


What does all this mean for small charities ?


All is not lost. 41% of people questioned in a recent survey said they preferred small charities because they spent less money on areas which were not their charitable objects – staff, campaigning and advertising – and because they were closer to those they helped. That doesn’t always translate into giving, though. Small charities are often less willing to ask for donations from the public and from their supporters, and are sometimes less professional in the way they go about seeking trust and statutory grants.


So if you are a small charity and want to ensure you end up a winner, professionalism in all matters, as well as good governance and a tight rein on spending, is key to the future. Just because a charity is small, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be effective, efficient – and good at fundraising !