Today, following SCC's final event 'The Power of Small', the organisation has published its final evaluation report ahead of our closure on the 31st March: Small And Mighty - A report on the Life and Legacy of the Small Charities Coalition.
The report follows a 2 month evaluation and legacy process supported by Iona Lawrence, an independent consultant and co-founder of Stewarding Loss, a project dedicated to better endings in civil society, which saw 500+ people and organisations engaged in discussions around the impact of the charity.
In the evaluation, members and non-members alike were most clear and most united around the gap SCC will leave in terms of speaking up and advocating for small charities. Without SCC, there will be no dedicated and trusted small charity support organisation with a seat at key decision making tables to influence funding and policy for small charities.
The report is calling for a mindset shift among funders, regulators and government towards viewing infrastructure as a ‘public good’ and dedicating long-term investment to ensure a healthy charity infrastructure with the ability to support charities and communities across the country.
There's good news however for the thousands of charities and volunteers who continue to rely on the SCC Helpdesk for advice, guidance and support. The HelpDesk will continue to operate and will be run under a new partnership between NCVO and the FSI. This news comes after SCC trustees conducted a competitive expression of interest process which saw 6 organisations put their case forward for running the HelpDesk after SCC's closure.
As part of the agreement, SCC will transfer a number of its services and assets to the new FSI and NCVO partnership, including:
The Small Charities HelpDesk and associated services
Hosting and maintenance of www.charitysetup.org.uk
Maintenance of a resource hub for small charities
Data from the SCC HelpDesk which will be used to influence policy and funding opportunities for small charities
SCC’s Charity Advice and Mentoring Manager, Amy Walton, will be joining the existing practical support team at NCVO to facilitate a smooth transfer of services and to guarantee continuity of support and the warm tone and approach synonymous with SCC’s HelpDesk for small charities.
Sarah Vibert, CEO of NCVO, commented on the partnership and transfer of services:
“I know from running a small charity just how valuable the support provided by the Small Charities Coalition has been for smaller voluntary organisations, which make up the majority of our sector. I am delighted that alongside colleagues at the Foundation for Social Improvement and with the insight of a new small charities advisory group, NCVO will play a part in securing the legacy of the Small Charities Coalition. Together we will build on this legacy to ensure there is a distinct and comprehensive support offer for small charities, which evolves to meet changing needs.
I am looking forward to welcoming Amy Walton to our team and learning from her vast experience and knowledge supporting small charities. I’d like to recognise and thank the trustees of the Small Charities Coalition for their dedication to ensuring continuity of support for their members and all the work they have done to facilitate a smooth transfer of services.”
Stuart Thomason, CEO of the FSI, said: “The Small Charities Coalition have played a critical role advocating for the needs of small charities and as a small charity ourselves, the FSI will work tirelessly to protect their legacy. The FSI have provided a free advice hub for small charities for over 15 years, and we are pleased to expand this offer alongside NCVO. We will continue to offer free and heavily subsided capacity building support for people building impactful organisations.
We are also committed to developing new learning networks to support small charities advocating for change in key policy areas and we are looking forward to working with NCVO to amplify these positive messages of social action through Small Charity Week and other tailored events.”
Headlines from the final evaluation report include:
SCC’s founding belief remains as true today as the day it started: that small charities, in all their many shapes and sizes, need a dedicated place to go for support and a voice to represent them in corridors of power.
At its most influential moments, SCC operated as an ambitious but humble servant leader by working in a catalytic way to support, connect, energise and speak up for small charities.
How SCC offered support was the most significant draw for members. Members consistently cited that it was the welcoming, open, inclusive and non-judgemental approach embedded across SCC’s services and the warm relationships it had with its members that was the most significant reason that members turned to and relied upon SCC time and again.
Meanwhile other aspects of SCC’s support will leave substantial gaps for small charities: the HelpDesk and the Charity Set Up Tool in particular were unique to the organisation and aren’t fully replicated anywhere else in the infrastructure sector. SCC’s trustees have appointed NCVO and the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) as the legacy partners for SCC’s HelpDesk following a competitive expression of interest application process. It is expected that this will be welcome news to the hundreds of small charities who relied on the SCC HelpDesk.
There are no easy answers for how to remedy the very real fundraising challenges SCC faced in any future small charity infrastructure efforts. Ultimately a mindset shift is required whereby funders, the regulator and the Government view infrastructure as a ‘public good’ and therefore dedicate long-term investment to it in order to deliver a healthy, diverse and thriving small charity sector as a foundational part of a dynamic civil society.
A small charity itself, SCC was consistently cited in the evaluation survey and interviews undertaken for this report as having ‘punched above its weight’. But in the end, this is an organisation that was itself overcome with the very same challenges that small charities are facing up and down the country.
Going forward for all those who work with, fund and support small charities, the report urges you to embrace these four principles:
If you support or fund small charities, say so upfront
Take time to understand and tune into the reality of being a small charity
Build trust by creating space for relationships
Think small, advocate ambitiously
The full report, Small AND Mighty: The Life and Legacy of the Small Charities Coalition, can be read here.
Joyce Fraser, Chair at the Small Charities Coalition, commented: “The last few months have been a time of intense activity with an outcome we could have barely imagined when we announced SCC’s closure in December 2021. The board would like to thank all those in the infrastructure eco-system and funders for standing alongside us and engaging with us in securing a legacy for small charities. Today’s announcement would not have been possible without them. We look forward to seeing the HelpDesk continue its invaluable work through the new partnership of FSI and NCVO. Critical in this handover is not just the continuation of a distinct small charities service, but continuation of its personalised approach and tone, cutting the jargon and demystifying the difficult.
Our thanks go to Iona Lawrence for leading the evaluation project and to the very many who contributed to it. We are indebted to you all for your contributions.
The advent of the advisory group, alongside the HelpDesk move, will ensure the “small charity voice” can be leveraged rather than lost. It provides a great space and opportunity for improved all round support and representation of small charities across the infrastructure eco-system. Our final evaluation report provides much of the agenda for our new HelpDesk hosts and the advisory panel.
Finally a huge thank you to all our members and small charities for being the driving force behind our work over the last 14 years; and a particular thank you to every single member of the SCC team over that time, staff, volunteers, mentors, trainers, advisors and trustees. The work and the legacy would not have been possible without you.”
Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Communications and Research at Lloyds Bank Foundation, said: “Small charities make up the majority of the charity sector, are the lifeblood of our communities and are on the frontline of providing support and services to so many, never more so than during Covid. The Small Charities Coalition worked hard to ensure small charities were understood, supported and represented but with SCC having to wind-up it was vital to ensure this wasn’t lost. So, at Lloyds Bank Foundation, having supported SCC for a number of years, we were delighted to work with their trustees, staff, other funders and infrastructure to help support the Helpdesk to move to a new host with this exciting partnership between NCVO and FSI. This will ensure small charities continue to get vital advice in a way that is tailored for them and that the insight gained can be used and shared to ensure that the role, concerns and value of small charities is heard loudly in the corridors of power.”
Iona Lawrence said, “The decision to close is never an easy one and the undertaking of an orderly closure is equally as tough. Yet despite how tough it can be to undertake a ‘good’ ending for an organisation, SCC is testament to the belief that there are always stories to be celebrated, legacies to be proud of, work that will continue even if the four walls of an organisation no longer stand and learnings that peer organisations and communities must carry forward in their pursuit of change.”
Further announcements will be made via SCC’s website and mailing list over the coming weeks. Anyone with queries should contact the SCC Board of Trustees on firstname.lastname@example.org.