The challenges of being a small charity

by ACT

  • Posted on January 24, 2020

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Some of our small (but growing) team

Our mission is simple – help disadvantaged children and vulnerable women across Africa.

At ACT, we are engaged in the relief of human suffering, alleviating poverty and advancing development among widows and needy fatherless children and orphans in Africa.

While we would like to bring an end to the cycle of poverty across Africa but it is never that simple. There is a plethora of issues facing small charities like ACT that make this difficult and challenging. Our aim in this blog is to explore some of these issues and what we are doing to overcome them.

Transparency

In recent times, a major issue facing the charity sector in the UK is the increasing distrust of the public for charities. Issues such as safeguarding, abuses, misuse of funds and high salary payment to CEOs by a very small number of big major charities, has led to bad publicity that has given the sector a bad name. As charities grow in size and in income, the lines between charity mission and personal gain can become blurred. Poor fundraising practice, inappropriate data sharing and damaging scandals all contribute to a weakened relationship between charities and the public. When high-profile organisations stumble, the effects are felt by the many thousands of smaller charities and the ensuing lack of trust ripples across the community. This can be a major obstacle for small charities, as it’s mainly through the support of the general public that they are able to operate.

At ACT, we have right from inception set out to demonstrate an example of charitable purpose through complete transparency. For example, our annual financial statement of accounts and report provide in-depth breakdown of our finances, where our money is coming from, where exactly it is going and how it is used. We stay on top of our social media, providing updates about our work wherever possible and share both our success stories and challenges and the learnings from them.

Governance

Governance may not be a word you naturally associate with charitable causes, yet this is what should keep a charity running on the straight path. Charities operate in a fast-changing world where shifts in the economy is putting increasing pressure on governance standards. The ability to identify and assess risk has never been so important, without which an air of doubt is cast on the charity’s future. It is true that small charities struggle in this area, but so also do the big charities. Some of the issues that have brought the charity sector in the UK to disrepute are fundamentally because of failure in their governance. At ACT, our governance structure steers the direction of the charity. Our five current trustees together have combined experience of nearly 100 years of governance within the charity sector. The board of trustees come up with the strategies that allow us to carry out our purpose effectively and efficiently, guided by our ethos and values, which are documented and communicated to staff and volunteers alike on a regular basis through our work.  With regular staff meetings, we are able to keep ourselves accountable and ensure that we stay on track to speak for those otherwise forgotten.

Sustainability

Small charities like ACT face the challenge of resources. We have to compete with the big charities for funds from the same pot of the general public. Yet, the big ones have the huge advantage of being able to pour resources into marketing that enables them to take even more out from the pot. This they use to employ more staff and pay them attractive salaries not possible for small charities to match. It is the reason that ACT depends mainly on volunteers to support its two paid staff to carry out its work. It can be easy to forget that charities are formed to carry out their vision, whatever it is, to the benefit of others. It’s income, obtained often from the general public is expected to be used mostly for that purpose. This is part of the reason for the current disenchantment of the UK public with the charity sector. Many large and small charities have compromised their financial situation and in doing so put their survival at risk. This explains the high number of charities closing shop each year with negative consequences for those they had hoped to help.

At ACT, our strong governance structure combined with careful financial management and transparency have kept us in operation this past 22 years. Our resources are used almost entirely for the purpose for which we were set up and we operate minimal overheads. As a charity, we ourselves depend on the charity of people giving us of their time (volunteering), resources (donations), encouragement and support.

You can support us by telling others  – friends, family and colleagues about ACT. You can pray for us, take part in one of our events, create your own fundraiser or volunteer. You can Sponsor a child or Donate to our work. To find out how click here.

Help us to bring hope to those otherwise forgotten, the orphans and widows in the 8 African nations where we currently operate. Visit our website to find out more www.africanchildtrust.org.uk.


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