A #SmallCharity manifesto


This is our manifesto for #SmallCharities, short and sweet and only one point!

Loads of charities are writing manifestos in the run up to this election and I hope that whoever enters No 10 in December takes a look at these as they all make excellent points in a far more crafted way than I can. You can find some of the best here.

Good practice states that your manifesto should not be too long, and I read somewhere it should have an uneven number of points and have five or less demands. So this works!

To all prospective candidates, to all political parties and to all who are elected this is our #SmallCharity manifesto.

Give #SmallCharities more money.

That’s it! I really don’t care how this happens, but there should be a variety of opportunities to enable funding to flow to different organisations in different places doing different things. So maybe think about

  • Unfreezing all the dormant assets and find a way to spend the money on #SmallCharities, maybe through community foundations (thanks to NCVO for this one)
  • Repaying the lottery money used on the 2012 Olympics (thanks to DSC for this one) and while you are there increasing the percentage of money going to good causes.
  • Increase funding to local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups so they can reinstate and increase grants to local groups.
  • Increase tax and ring fence some of the money to be used to improve local communities.
  • Give us a money tree.

If you do this #SmallCharities will carry on being the powerhouse for good that they have always been.

If you do this #SmallCharities will continue to make the communities we live in better, stronger and more resilient.

If you do this #SmallCharities will be able to grow and prosper and not wither and die.

It may seem a bit crass or simplistic just asking for money, but national research has shown that small charities have suffered more financial pressures in the last 10 years than bigger charities.

“Over the last decade, small charities have seen a 20% decrease in their overall income while income has increased by 30% for major and super-major organisations. At the same time, the proportion of income from government going to small charities has also decreased from 2.7% of the total in 2006/07 to 2.1% in 2015/16.”


“There is no disguising the fact that the cuts have been dramatic and that there is now far less money to go around.”


Coupled with the loss of funding smaller charities are more susceptible to short term funding decisions and to fluctuations in funding.

“Instability associated with short-term funding streams appears to be a more critical issue for smaller charities, for whom the removal or retention of single funding awards can be the difference between survival and closure.”


Not only have #SmallCharities seen disproportionate drops in funding, but by their nature they are less able to deal with these fluctuations. I would therefore ask that while you are finding us the extra money can you also ensure that this can be accessed by charities over longer periods; five years would be good 10 years would be better.

That’s it, my single point manifesto.

Give #SmallCharities more money.

  • With more money we will recruit, manage and train more volunteers.
  • With more money we will deliver more projects to reduce inequality, loneliness and ill health.
  • With more money we will waste less of our time on fundraising and devote more to doing what it is we are best at.
  • With more money we will run more clubs, activities and events for people.
  • With more money we will still be here in the future.

It really doesn’t matter how you do it – just make it happen.

Is Competition bad?

This is a response to a great blog on the Community Matters Yorkshire page. You can read it here. The blog poses some questions about competition in our sector, both around the role of different support organisations (like CCVS) but also around to the wider sector as well.

The national body that supports organisations like CCVS is called NAVCA and they are undergoing a major strategic review and this is what has prompted these blogs. CCVS was one of the many organisations that the new chair of NAVCA met with before he (unfortunately) retired. At this meeting I spoke about the importance of support organisations working together and not bidding or working in a way that might put others out of business. This may seem odd as the CEO of an organisation that has taken over the work of one very small CVS and has also bid against another to work across Cambridgeshire. That said neither of these things happened on my watch, but that does not mean I would not have made the same choices.

What concerns me is that we are seeing increasing instances of work that was grant funded being put out to commissioning and procurement. We are also seeing cuts to the funding that many support organisations receive from local government and health providers. The days of a CCVS type organisation working in every district are long gone, we now see a broad church of organisations working in different areas and providing very different services. Some are large and some are small. Some provide direct services and projects some don’t. Some are well funded some are not.

I wanted NAVCA membership to have a clause that one support organisation from outside an area would not bid against an existing organisation to deliver core CVS services. I want us to be working together to deliver the best services to the sector not competing against one another. I still want this.

That said the Community Matters blog does make some good points. I think that there are instances where there will be competition, this could be because it is a new service, or it could be because the existing service is not producing the impact it should be. I think that the first conversation should be about collaboration, but if this fails there will be, and should be, a more competitive process.

So is this possible or am I being unrealistic? I think that a more collaborative approach is possible, I think we can be more open and I think we can embrace politeness. This means being open about plans to move into other areas or provide new services in an area you haven’t worked in before. This applies to local organisations growing and moving to new areas, but also to national organisations looking to deliver locally. So if you are a national support organisation delivering locally then talk to the local support organisation to see how you can add value to local groups. If a new opportunity is tendered then start by talking with other providers about how you can submit joint applications. I also think that if collaboration is to happen you have to be open and honest, so no hidden agendas.

Too often we are as worried about collaboration as we are of competition, we all fight for our organisation and we feel threatened by new kids on the block with new ideas. I don’t think that I am immune to these fears, but I have found that where we do collaborate we have better impact and I have faced and overcome (mostly) those fears.

Finally there is a nod to the commissioners. It is important that things like local knowledge, social value, the local economy etc. are taken into account when dealing with our sector. These are hard to put a monetary value on but they do make a great difference to those receiving a service. There have been too many examples of national organisations winning local work only to see the quality of service go down because it was all about outputs and money.

I don’t think any charity has the ‘god given’ right to be a local provider just because they always have been. In the end it is about those receiving the service, they need the best whether they are a group looking for funding support or an individual looking for support. I do think that sometimes smaller local organisations struggle to compete against bigger organisations, and this should not be the reason they fail.

Competition can drive improvements and help develop new services, but so can collaboration. Maybe we should be calling for collaborative tendering and not competitive tendering. We should all be thinking collaboration first, competition second.

Written by Mark Freeman, CEO of CCVS. Follow him at @skillsmark on Twitter or on LinkedIn

Volunteering wisdom

If you want to know why people volunteer, what keeps them volunteering and how we can get more people into volunteering you really need to ask some experts – which is exactly what we did at our celebrating volunteers event during National Volunteers’ Week (check out the web page for more info) – we were lucky enough to fill the brasserie at John Lewis & Partners in Cambridge with volunteers and people who work with them – after all there is no such thing as a free lunch!   

Our ‘experts’ were drawn from a random sample of local volunteer groups, so feedback is entirely subjective but at the same time closely reflects national research and trends as seen in the NCVO research.  The key reasons our volunteers started volunteering were: 

  • To make a difference, feel useful and help others 
  • Meet new and different people and engage in their community 
  • Use existing skills 
  • As a way of giving back because they or those they cared for had been helped.

When we look to recruit volunteers, we need to convey these messages.  For some ideas to get you started check out the CCVS Pinterest board and maybe sign up for our next workshop on recruiting & retaining volunteers.

When we asked the volunteers Why do you keep volunteering? they told us it was about: 

  • The other people they volunteer with and for, who make it worthwhile and enjoyable 
  • Being able to see they help others and make a difference 
  • Being able to use skills 

Our random sample highlighted the fact that if organisations what to attract and retain volunteers they need to understand what motivates people to volunteer.  Organisations also need to be aware that motivation changes as people develop in their volunteering roles.  To keep people turning up to volunteer they need to feel valued and gain satisfaction from their role.   

There is no one size fits all and we need to be flexible.  For some volunteers. time credits will make the difference for others it might be regular thanks and taking the trouble to keep them up to speed on what is happening with clients they have helped.    

While they were on a roll, we went on to ask our ‘experts’ the million-dollar question How do we get more people into volunteering?  

  • Highlight the difference volunteers make and tell their stories.  The enthusiasm of existing volunteers is infectious (CCVS will be running a story telling workshop early 2020 to help you tell your stories) 
  • Make it easier for people to volunteer reduce barriers, increase flexibility 
  • Show you value your volunteers.  
  • Improve promotion, use more channels to reach more people and convey strong appealing messages (CCVS have a range of free training on using social media) 

CCVS has a programme of training and support for those managing volunteers free to our members and supported by funding from Cambridge City Council. 

Decision on which deckchairs to move delayed as healthcare in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough slowly sinks.

Earlier this week the Cambridge and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) met to look at what funding it could cut to help it relieve its £192 Million deficit. This was of importance to local charities as they were looking at the funding for community services which includes a number of small grants that were to be ended or renegotiated. This blog concentrates charities but other community services that play a vital role are also under threat.

The first thing to say is that the groups affected have worked really hard with Support Cambridgeshire, and especially Julie Farrow from Hunts Forum to show the value of the work they do and to raise awareness of the impact of the cuts. This blog is simply CCVSs views which incorporate points raised by both Support Cambridgeshire and Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. You can read a statement from Healthwatch here.

The second thing to say is that the CCG are the second lowest funded per person in the country. This means that they get £350 per person less than West Norfolk CCG as an example. This is compounded by the speed at which the area’s population is growing. This is not new news, but it is relevant. What is also relevant is the fact that the CCG made a disastrous decision to contract out its older people’s healthcare and adult community services a number of years ago and lost a lot of money. It is probably also worth pointing out that this is not the first round of cuts for the sector from the CCG, I can still remember when many more projects were funded, including CCVS!

So what were the plans? I have highlighted the charity aspects from the papers which recommend

The Governing Body is asked to approve:

The outcome of the MDT process, Steering Group, COT and IPAC discussions is that we would cease funding or decommission the following:

  • Dial-a-Ride
  • The Stroke Association
  • The Alzheimer’s Society
  • The Carer’s Trust Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Norfolk
  • The Health and Wellbeing Network
  • ECHIS (The Evelyn Community Head Injury Service)

The CCG would seek to renegotiate service provision and/or payment for the following:

  • The Care Network
  • Cambridge Hearing Help

The CCG would continue to fund:

  • The East Anglian Children’s Hospital

Just some initial thoughts.

The grant to Dial-a-ride is £6,516 a year or 0.003% of the deficit. The fact that this service is for Cambridge only and is not seen as clinical does not mean it is not saving the health service money. People can get ambulances, and in fact the CCG have a contract with the ambulance service. But dial-a-ride is so much more than just getting people to hospital, and is also I assume way cheaper per trip.

Cambridgeshire Hearing Help (CHH) work with 6500 users at 43 clinics across Cambridgeshire plus house bound provision to help them with hearing aids, they receive £34,682 or £5.34 per user. Specsavers receive £1,682,653 a year for their audiology service and charge £17 a session and people have to get to the shop. So, if these are to be renegotiated as per the papers lets hope loads more money goes to CHH. These figures do not even start to think about the value added of the CHH delivery model and the benefits of working with volunteers.

Why is the first main finding on the East Anglia Children’s Hospice (EACH) entry in the papers is “This service has great reputational impact on CCG if funding was ceased.” I think that the work EACH does is fantastic and needs to continue, and I hope that the proposal to continue to fund it was not because of the possible reputational impact and simply because EACH is fantastic!

So what’s the problem and what’s the solution?

There is undoubtedly a lack of money in the system and things need to be fairer. The local MPs are on the case


We should be putting pressure on whoever we can to get a fairer funding settlement, just as we are for education (what has Cambridgeshire done to upset the Whitehall mandarins to get such lousy settlements in education and health?)

Along with this we need to help the CCG understand the true value of funding the voluntary sector and the added value we bring. The savings that family carers make to the health system is massive, and so funding them to be better able to continue seems like a no brainer, but the CCG feel that the service supplied by Carers Trust is not cost effective as

“ this service provides services for carers rather than patients themselves and is more of prevention and crisis management rather than clinical provision.”

So if it prevents people accessing expensive services and helps the management of crises outside the system it should be welcomed. At an event I attended recently a Carers Trust volunteer and ex carer stated (and I paraphrase this)

“Carers Trust didn’t save my life, but they definitely saved my sanity and allowed me to continue to provide care for my partner”.

I know all the charities facing possible grant cuts would have similar stories, and I know that much work has gone on to ensure that these are shared with the CCG decision makers. At the end of the day they have to decide if it is making decisions based on just the basic figures, or if it recognises that prevention is always better than a cure.

Who would be a trustee or committee member?


Attribution: Alpha Stock Images – http://alphastockimages.com/
Original Author: Nick Youngson – http://www.nyphotographic.com/
Original Image: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/t/trustee.html

If you ask many small charities and groups, the answer to the above question is “not enough people”. If you ask most members of the public, they would probably look at you blankly and ask what a trustee does. Almost nobody volunteers for a charity because of the quality and excitement of their trustee meetings. People get involved because it is a cause, an organisation, a mission they are passionate about; people want to make a difference by doing, campaigning, interacting and not by meeting to check the safeguarding policy is up to date or the annual returns have been posted! Too often trustees are press-ganged into the role, I have lost count of the number of trustees I have met over the years who were dedicated supporters and/or volunteers of a charity and have been co-opted (coerced) onto the board because there was a need for more bodies.

Lots has been written about diversity on boards and this is something that should be encouraged, but too often the reality for most charities is that ‘we will take anyone who offers’. I know any number of charities who are so desperate for a treasurer they would happily accept the Count from Sesame Street as at least he understands numbers. Sometimes diversity or skills are less important than warm bodies who will turn up. We need to think about how smaller groups can turn this around given that there is no budget, and that there is less kudos and more work in small organisations, often trustees have to take on the day to day management tasks as there are not the staff or volunteers to do this. Arguably the role of say the secretary in a small organisation with a £50,000 turnover is more time consuming than it is in a multi-million pound one. In the small organisation you are doing it all, in the larger one you are checking that someone has done ‘it’.

Without a doubt a diverse, highly skilled, and well recruited trustee board is a positive benefit to an organisation. There are lots of people thinking about this at the moment, but I wonder how many will do so in a practical way for small organisations. How much of the advice will take into account the reality of working in rural or more deprived communities?

Recently Susan Elan Jones, the Labour MP for Clwyd South and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering introduced a 10 minute bill that has passed the first stage in parliament. This would add trustees to the list of activities that organisations have to give employees reasonable time off to attend, putting trustees on a par with councillors, magistrates and school governors. This is a good thing but there has been a recent issue with these bills making it through the parliamentary process. And anyway parliament seem to be obsessed with something else at the moment! – We can hope this is successful and you can find out more in this article.

If we assume that this happens will it help our small groups? Yes but …. What is reasonable time off? What does it mean to smaller local firms who may employ the local trustees? What does it mean for those in low income or temporary work who may be the trustees of the grassroots organisations? Will this mean more trustees for small local charities?

Should we pay them

My answer is and always will be no. This may seem idealistic but if you start paying people then motivations change and so does the whole ethos of charities IMHO. So, no payment but let’s be better about expenses. Encourage people to take them, if all do it, it won’t make that person who does need to take them feel stigmatised. If those that don’t need them donate the money back to the charity or another charity great, and we can claim gift aid, so great with a perk! Also remember expenses might include paying for child care or to overcome other barriers to coming out like a carer or interpreter. We all say we pay expenses but how many of us are doing it as no one has asked?

Open recruitment will make us more diverse.

That is what the research says, and I have to agree. But (and there is always a but), how practical is this for small groups with no budget and little experience. Luckily there are lots of resources available including a new guide from Getting on Board called ‘How to recruit trustees for your charity’ This has lots of advice that builds on the ‘Taken on Trust’ research. This included work to support 30 charities to recruit new trustees of which 74% were successful. Whilst this is great if only ¾ were successful when given significant help and support then it shows how difficult it can be for small organisations.

CCVS is there to offer some support so do contact us if you need help, but you have to sell your organisation and the role! Few organisations do advertise, and when they do it is generally in the free places where they are appealing to the ‘usual suspects’. By putting your advert on Reach or on Do-It, or for that matter on the CCVS website, you are advertising to people who are engaged. By advertising on social media, you are competing with all the other noise. This is a start but if you are looking to diversify your board you are going to have to invest time, energy and resources into this then. Use the above guide to try and get it as perfect as possible and be creative with your ad and where you place it..

Why do no diverse people come forward when we advertise?

There is an issue about diversity on boards. The Charity Commission has been (unhelpfully) highlighting this for a while. I am pretty sure that most of those working in the sector are aware of this. Unfortunately, open recruitment will not solve this alone. We need to address some fundamental issues which stem from the ‘that’s not for the likes of me’ syndrome. We need to look at any issues that exist about why some people do not see themselves as trustees. We need to look at why those from the working class or those from lower income groups do not see them selves as trustees. We need to address why there are fewer people from BAME communities who are trustees. We need to think why young people are not becoming trustees. We need to spread the word that trusteeship is about them, that they do have skills, insights and experiences that are important, we need to highlight the things that people can gain from being a trustee (there is a whole blog about what I have gained from it, but do check out this). If whole sections of the community do not see themselves as potential trustees no amount of open advertising is going to improve things.

So what can we do?

I think that there is a disconnect in the advice and the reality for small charities (those with an income below £100K). I also think that there is more that we as a sector can do, and more that we as a local support organisation can do.

  • We see many adverts that list the skills needs for trustees as HR, finance, management, social media etc. and less that stress the need for commitment, passion, interest, lived experience. We need to get better at appealing to a wider group of people, we have to work to write better adverts.
  • We need to find ways to make more people see themselves as trustees. This means that groups working with these individuals need to look at how we educate and inform people that charities want them.
  • We need to find funders that will fund grassroots programmes to provide advice, support and training to get more people to become trustees.
  • Charities have to want diverse boards and not just say they do. Often boards become ‘clubs’ and this is very off putting if you do not naturally fit in. It is important that all organisations look for new ideas and disrupters, and are able to engage with and encourage the change that they bring.
  • We need to think where we are advertising and not simply use the usual channels, and this is where open recruitment needs to be better – if we have an advert that appeals to a certain group, we need to put it in front of that group.
  • We need to put in place appropriate training and support for new trustees. This has to be from infrastructure organisations and also from the trustee’s own organisation. We need to make this support and training flexible and appropriate to trustees from all backgrounds.
  • We need to be better at articulating both the difference that trustees make and the personal benefits that being a trustee brings. Many volunteering opportunities are couched in this way and sometimes it feels that trustees are looked at differently than volunteers when in fact it is simply one form of volunteering.
  • We need to make our meetings accessible to different people, this means looking at the times and venues but also at the use of technology and how we structure meetings.

Without trustees the sector grinds to a halt, yet for many small groups getting trustees is an ongoing struggle. We need investment that will both help the groups look in new places as they recruit, and will also help more people to see themselves as potential trustees. We need good quality advice, support and training for new and existing trustees to ensure they are kept informed and up to date with best practice and legislation. We need everyone, including the Charity Commission, promoting the fantastic work charities do and how trustees contribute to this.

What I need to move my charity forward and be the best it can is someone committed and passionate about our vision. I can’t teach that, I can teach a bit of charity law, or finance or strategic planning.

Advert to a page to find out more about being a trustee on the CCVS website
Advert to Duties of trustees training to be held on 30th April in Cambridge