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Stuck in the middle…

… or bridging the gap?

Last month we joined in with celebrating Small Charities Week and as I write, small really is beautiful. I find it hugely encouraging that there are so many programmes and resources to help small charities.

The criteria for these programmes are often are aimed at charities which turn over less than £1.5 million. It got me thinking about what happens when, like us, your turnover can straddle either side of that mark. One year we may be under, one year we may be over. Is The National Brain Appeal small, or are we medium? What happens when sometimes you qualify and other times don’t?

There certainly are difficulties in being a ‘certain size’. You’re not small enough to exist without necessary overheads such as staffing or permanent office space, but not big enough to secure big corporate support or to step up to the next level.

When the recession hit the first time round, it was forecast that it would be the medium-sized charities that would be the most affected. Paul Amadi, then the Chair of the Institute of Fundraising, predicted that “medium-sized organisations don’t have the capacity of the larger organisations to cope, or the agility of smaller organisations to compensate, so they will get the worst of both worlds.” We’re still seeing the same issues in this year’s Third Sector Research Centre Conference.

Do medium sized charities divide into smaller organisations or build partnerships? Do we find ways to weather the storm, to make use of our size as an important bridge rather than leaving a hole in the middle?

I do think, despite all the conversation, that there are benefits to being ‘in the middle’. We bring experience and knowledge, yet aren’t afraid to innovate because we have to. Medium-sized charities have established and respected iconography but aren’t held down by rigid brand guidelines unlike larger charities. Being smaller means that relationships with our supporters and as a team are strong and more personal; equally we have a growing voice that means we can take part in a larger, not just local, arena.

What do you think? Do you work for a medium charity? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Theresa Dauncey, Chief Executive, The National Brain Appeal


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