The Untapped Potential of Local Giving – A blog by Janet Ormerod of Nahira Consultancy

A blog by Janet Ormerod of the newly launched Nahira Consultancy specialising in funding advice and consultancy for charities and not-for-profits…

I have been fortunate over recent weeks to meet with Chief Executives and Senior Managers of several medium sized charities in various parts of Sussex, all doing a fantastic job in their particular service area.

The common theme is that every single one is taking a clear-eyed look at the future funding landscape, and in the face of vastly reducing public sector support, starting to develop new ways of generating income.

For some this means setting up or growing a fee based service, selling their expertise into new markets. For others the plan is to gain more support from individuals through a combination of community fundraising and donations.

Encouraging local people to give to local charities is not a new area for me, having worked for many years at Sussex Community Foundation, yet it still seems to be largely an untapped resource. Recent figures from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) confirm that 80% of public giving goes to just 3% of charities, which as you would guess, are the very large, well known and branded major charities.

It is good that the British public are so generous and of course, these charities do vital work. But so do the smaller charities I have been meeting with, and numerous others in Sussex and across the whole region.

Just out of curiosity I did a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculation and worked out that if just 10% of working age adults living in Brighton & Hove gave £10 a month to a local charity, it would raise around £2.3 million per annum. That may be small beer for the big charities, but would create vital income for a good number of small organisations.

So how can local charities tap into this potential more effectively? First and foremost I think it’s a matter of getting some clear messages out there – putting significant investment into raising wider awareness of their work and the need for funds. Many people simply don’t know about local charities and even if they do, don’t realise that they need donations.

Secondly it’s about proactively identifying and building on the social capital that all local charities have – the networks of beneficiaries, volunteers, staff, trustees and supporters.

It can be a tall order for charities with slim reserves to invest at this level, but my concern is that otherwise these new approaches may be viewed as a short-term quick fix, whereas more fundamental building blocks are necessary for long term success.

Is there a place for some kind of campaign on this? There have been many fantastically successful ways in which people have been encouraged to ‘stay local’, for example with food producers. Is there a way that local media and the power of social media can be used to enhance this message about giving to local groups, building on the success of existing fundraising initiatives such as the Argus Appeal and the Rainbow Fund in Brighton & Hove?

There are already some good websites out there that enable people to give on-line to small charities, and even community groups, such as localgiving.com. What is needed now, however, is a concerted push to develop awareness of the vital necessity of local giving.

If you would like an objective outside eye to help review your charity’s funding strategy, or investigate the feasibility of new income streams please get in touch – see www.nahiraconsultancy.com