Small Charity Week: Celebrating and providing tips

Helen Oparinde, Development Officer in VAL’s Voluntary Sector Support team, celebrates small charity week by highlighting some of the support VAL has given to local small charities and some tips to help others on their journey.

Small Charity Week is a campaign which was first established by the Foundation for Social Improvement (the FSI) in 2010 to celebrate and raise the profile of the small charity sector. But from 2020 the campaign is now delivered by The FSI, NCVO, NAVCA, Local Giving and Small Charities Coalition, all passionate about the work of the Small Charity Sector.

The objectives of Small Charity Week are to:

  • Celebrate the contribution that small charities make to communities throughout the UK and across the world
  • Improve the knowledge, representation and sustainability of small charities
  • Highlight the work of the small charity sector to the broadest possible audience
  • Encourage public giving
  • Work with the small charity sector to develop political engagement at a national and local level

The Small Charities Coalition informs us that 97% of charities in the UK are small charities, sharing less than 20% of the money that goes to the charity sector. They define a small charity as any UK charitable organisation with an annual income of less than £1 million.

Highlighting the work of the local small charity sector

Over the years VAL’s sector support team has supported a number of small charities to develop and we would like to use this week to recognise a few.

Such as Quorn Mills Park Bowling Club a charity based in Charnwood borough who describe themselves as;

“We are about bowling – and so much more! We consider ourselves to be one of the friendliest clubs in the country.”

VAL helped their trustees to convert to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), so that they could sign a formal lease with the owners. In order to carry on the legacy of the bowling facility being available for the employees of the mill run by M. Wright and Son back in 1920, but now being available to the wider community for leisure.

Such as Accept, a Christian charity based in Hinckley whose vision is improving the mental health for those experiencing difficulties.

VAL helped the group by providing a Read and Review service and offering feedback on a draft funding application to the National Lottery Community Fund.

Such as Age Concern Syston and District, another small charity based in Charnwood Borough, who continue to offer help delivering shopping and prescriptions. As well as a befriending service to anyone feeling isolated and lonely.

VAL helped the organisation recruit a bank of 32 local volunteers on whom they could call to go out to the individuals and provide the help they require.

You can read about other success stories with small charities here.

Tips for the small charity sector:

As part of small charity week’s policy day theme, NCVO are hosting an event on how to influence local elected officials. Whilst this course is fully booked up, they have also produced a useful resource called how to influence locally, which gives a 6 pronged approach to campaigning for small charities. Explaining that small charities may not have a rolling programme of campaigns in the way a national charity might, but threats or opportunities can arise that necessitate a response.

Media Trust is a national charity that works in partnership with the media and creative industry, encouraging them to share their time, knowledge and creativity to benefit charities, under-represented communities and young people.

Their 2021 Covid-19 Charity Communications Survey highlighted that budget constraints were the biggest communication barrier for charities this year and that 46% of charities are looking for pro bono support with their social media and digital marketing.

To assist with this need, Charities of any size and from any UK location can use their Volunteer Platform to connect with media and creative industry professionals looking to use their skills and expertise for social impact.

In addition they have recently uploaded a pre-recorded webinar by Instagram on how to build your community on instagram. The webinar covers Instagram best practices, new platform features, and frequently asked questions. Plus you can watch it at your leisure.

Finally we always recommend that if a small charity wants a friendly listening ear and some practical advice, then it is worth speaking to their local development officer.

NAVCA are the only national membership body specifically for local sector support and development organisations (also known as local infrastructure) in England. Their members, who employ development officers, support around 200,000 local charities and voluntary groups across the country, helping them to thrive and deliver essential services within their communities. VAL is a member of a NAVCA.

Their campaign work has included obtaining intelligence and information from members into a set of thoughts and recommendations on what levelling up could and should look like and sent them to Neil O’Brien MP – who has been appointed by Boris Johnson to produce a Levelling Up White Paper – to inform his thinking. You can read their submission here.

Recently I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger for NAVCA and wrote about the day in the life of a development officer giving examples of the support a development officer provides.

If you are a local small charity based in Leicester and Leicestershire who offer support to local beneficiaries and would like some advice and support then get in touch

Helen Oparinde

Helen Oparinde is a Development Officer for VAL as part of the Voluntary Sector Support team. Helen is an expert in charity governance and provides face-to-face and telephone advice to local charities and community groups. You can contact Helen at