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  • Wayne Murray

What the small charity sector wants from the general public: The SCW Public Pledge

Updated: Jun 17

A group of people in smart clothes layer their hands on top of each other

Wayne Murray and Vic Hancock Fell, supporters of Small Charity Week, share the urgency of communities needing to come together to demonstrate support for small charities through a public pledge.


As we’re acutely aware, charities are in crisis. Amongst many issues, the increase in demand for services and shrinking funding continues to be a major issue. Small charities are at the sharp edge of this, and it’s cutting deep.

They also make up 97% of the sector, they are the lifeblood of communities and many are closing, or at the point of closure. Wellbeing is chronically low.

Small Charity Week has been a beacon of hope and support for many years. Last year we collectively generated an enormous amount of engagement and participation. But engagement and participation are not going to solve the issues small charities are facing.

Together we united a large part of the small charity sector, but we didn’t get beyond that.

What small charities need

Change comes when everyone is involved. If small charities could solve the issues they are facing on their own, they would have by now.

This needs the wider sector. It needs the wider public.

We need to start addressing the gap between what the wider public knows about the issues facing small charities, and what charities desperately need them to know (and do).

Much of what smaller charities do is hidden. You’d only know about them if you used their services. Even though they may be on the same road you live on.

The public and smaller charities live side by side, but they are not connected enough.

If people knew and understood the issues, they might just care more. They might just do more. We need to connect people to the charities around them, to connect to their own community more.

How we move forward

For us to progress, we need to get out of our small charity bubble. We need to connect with the public, we need to connect with communities.

We need to understand what small charities want the public to hear. We also need to understand that much of the public don’t read the sector press or understand the language

the sector uses.

We need to meet them where they are. We need simple, clear asks. And we need these asks on platforms where they will be seen, listened to and understood. We need to start a conversation.

We also need to celebrate that connecting to a charity is great for you too. It’s a reciprocal relationship. It’s good for you and it's good for your community.

What we already know

The small charity sector has been asked many times what the issues facing their organisations are. Thousands of individuals have given their time and voice. There have been countless reports, meetings, webinars and conversations about these issues.

We needed to bring together all of these existing findings down to their essence. We also needed to engage the small charity sector in which messages we take forward to the public and how we phrase them.

That’s why we built on the bedrock of insight we already have, with a range of workshops, conversations and drop-ins, to co-create these key messages. Hundreds of individuals engaged with us.

What became very clear is that there isn’t one, single key message or snappy hashtag that summarises everything that small charities need to be heard.

We needed something slightly longer. We needed a manifesto, or a public pledge.

Key themes for the pledge

Over the course of our conversations, funding was the key message followed by volunteering. We knew this would be the case as they are the most pressing issues charities are facing. The ones that are crippling, or closing charities as we speak.

But once we dug a bit deeper, even more fundamental issues started to bubble up.

  • “People don’t know we exist”

  • “We’re invisible”

  • “People don’t understand what charities do, how we are organised, what we are for”

  • “We are literally next door to you”

  • “If people saw the work, they’d get it. They’d care.”

There was also lots of discussion around how humans are inherently good, but we’re busy, we’re stretched. We’re conflicted, we’ve got our own problems.

But the issues facing many people in the current climate are exactly the same issues facing small charities. That’s the common ground. That’s how we can connect. With empathy and humanity.

So, before we get to the key messages of funding, volunteering and voice, we need to address the fundamental issues. People need to find small charities, and people need to care about them.

The public pledge

The public pledge has been built by hundreds of small charity representatives. Built on the foundations of insight that thousands have contributed to historically.

It's a call to action aimed at the general public to seek out small charities in their local community. To get to know them, to learn about what they do, to care about them and to get involved. To have a deeper relationship than just putting coins in a tin or signing a petition. To be active participants for change in their local communities.

It’s about getting people to take that first step. It’s about getting people to do a little bit more.

Pledge support

To help charities make our communities stronger, we need the public to pledge their support. We’re asking people to show their LOVE for small charities:

  • L – Listen and Learn: I will learn what small charities do in my neighbourhood

  • O – Organise: I will get my community involved with small charities

  • V – Volunteer: I will support small charities with my time, voice and money

  • E – Engage: I will do a bit more to make my community better.

What we’ll do with a public pledge

The team at NCVO are going to work up the public pledge with a suite of downloadable resources for you to use in your communications before and throughout Small Charity Week. They will also be pushing it hard with local and national media outlets. As will we.

We need you to make it come alive with:

  • sharing messages

  • case studies

  • celebrity support

  • community support.

With love and support for all in the small charity sector.

We may not see the change we want to see in society this year, but we can start making the change we want to see in society today.

We pledge to #LoveYourSmallCharity. Do you?

Wayne and Vic

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