FSI and NCVO partnership becomes new home of Small Charities Coalition Helpdesk

The Small Charities Coalition (SCC) has announced that the FSI (the Foundation for Social Improvement) and NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) have come together to secure the SCC Helpdesk and other key services. This will ensure small charities can still access vital help and support following the winding down of the small charity membership body from 31 March 2022.

When the SCC announced its closure in December 2021, their trustees and staff, together with representatives of various infrastructure bodies and funders, came together to consider how they could secure a positive legacy to best support small charities going forward. They identified that the Helpdesk provided a vital role and support for small charities that it was important not to lose, and brought together proposals and funding to allow it to transition to a new host organisation.

They also commissioned the production of an independent final evaluation report also released today: Small and Mighty: A report on the life and legacy of the Small Charities Coalition. This report highlights the impact of the SCC, shares lessons and secures its legacy for small charities.

The SCC trustees invited organisations to pitch to take on hosting the Helpdesk and were delighted to receive six strong proposals. After a full assessment by SCC’s trustees, and representatives of funders and infrastructure, they decided that the FSI and NCVO joint proposal represented the best outcome.

The following SCC services and assets will be transferred to the new FSI and NCVO partnership.

  • The Small Charities Helpdesk and associated services, including the transfer of one full-time staff member from SCC to provide a service within NCVO’s existing practical support team
  • Hosting and maintenance of the Charity Set Up Tool through 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

The FSI and NCVO have agreed a partnership that combines their expertise and existing support for the benefit of small charities and builds on the legacy of the SCC. This new initiative builds on an existing partnership between FSI and NCVO delivering governance e-learning. It’s intended to provide small charities with a clear route for support, helping to streamline access to advice and services.

The partnership will also enable the collection and analysis of data, insights and emerging trends for small charities and allow them to be shared more widely, including through the Lloyd’s Bank Foundation’s Small Charity Data Hub. This will support small charities in influencing policy and accessing funding opportunities.

Both FSI and NCVO already provide a wide range of support for small charities. The FSI has almost 9,000 members and offers advice, training and consultancy to small charities, as well as delivering the Small Charity Week campaign in June each year. As England’s largest membership body for charities, 92% (almost 16,000) of NCVO’s 17,000+ membership falls under the SCC definition of a small charity (income under £1 million). NCVO already provides extensive services for small charities, such as online resources and training.

FSI and NCVO will develop their collective small charity offer by:

  • building on the FSI’s Small Charity Week campaign
  • exploring the provision of a peer support and mentoring programme
  • creating new e-learning opportunities
  • ensuring small charities have a voice to influence policy makers.

Central to the new FSI and NCVO partnership will be the introduction of a small charities advisory group, which will ensure the voices of small charities continue to be heard and are amplified in the transfer of services from SCC. This group will offer insight to FSI and NCVO, to ensure the partners continue to meet and anticipate need.

The group will have a role engaging other infrastructure partners and organisations in the small charity sector, to ensure the partnership delivers and develops the support needed by small charities. The membership bodies will recruit to this group through an open process and appoint an interim chair to guide the early phases of the legacy work. Both announcements will take place soon.

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 FSI, 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 also 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 has 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 has 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.”

Joyce Fraser, chair at the Small Charities Coalition, commented: “We are delighted with today’s announcement and could have barely hoped for this when we announced SCC’s closure in December. 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.

“The new advisory group 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 ecosystem. Our final evaluation report, published today, provides much of the agenda for our new Helpdesk hosts and the advisory panel. Our thanks go to Iona Lawrence for leading this project and to the very many who contributed to it.

“We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the infrastructure organisations and funders for their support and engagement in particular over the last few months. Today’s announcement would not have been possible without them.

“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-19. 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, an independent consultant who led a two month evaluation and legacy project for the Small Charities Coalition, 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.”

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