Stories from the Small Charity sector
We want to say a huge thank you to everyone for sharing their stories about how small charities play a part in their lives. Below you can read all about the huge impact small charities have across local communities in so many different ways.
Chilterns MS Centre
For almost four decades the Chilterns MS Centre has been supporting people with MS in the local community by providing a range of treatments and services that help those with the condition to live life to the full.
To further support the community and to make even better use of the skills and resources the charity had built up over this time, in 2022 the Centre began a pilot programme to open up its services to people with neurological conditions other than MS, starting with Parkinson's and later on stroke survivors. Since the pilot began, users of the Centre by people with Parkinson's has grown so that they now account for 10% of the membership and the number of stroke members is also starting to grow.
As one of the new Parkinson's members of the Centre said:
"It is wonderful to have been able to access services in the caring, friendly and supportive atmosphere of the Centre – every time I go there I am welcomed as a friend. There is nothing overtly clinical about the Centre – it is really a pleasant place to spend time. "I already had a group of ‘Parkie Pals’ before I joined the MS Centre. I am looking forward to learning more about the needs of people with MS and other neurological conditions as time goes by – we have much in common, and together we will be stronger in sharing our journey."
Such is the success of the pilot programme that the Centre will be undergoing a rebrand later in 2023 to make the name more inclusive of all the people it supports.
The Compassionate Friends
We were lucky to benefit from a free nationwide poster campaign in February.
We were so excited to be able to make our charity visible to the general public and remind bereaved parents that we are here to help. It took some time to get the creative right, trying to highlight how it feels to be grieving the death of a child, but after some false starts we were satisfied with our campaign. We were lucky to run the campaign nationwide for 3 weeks on high visibility roadside locations.
Not only did it highlight the taboo of child death, but our volunteers felt so proud that “their” charity was picked. It also underlined how critically important our peer support is.
One of our support group attendees said of her support group facilitator: “Her understanding and calm acceptance became a lifeline in those first few months. Without Adelle I’m not sure how I’d have coped” – Anna
Eden Project Communities
I have the absolute pleasure of working closely with small charity Rossendale Rays. The Charity was founded by my in-laws who, after noting there was no provision for families with special needs and disabled children in their local area, founded Rossendale Rays with support of other parents.
It grew rapidly into a welcoming inclusive community where all siblings, family and friends could attend safely together. Their ethos is to help fellow families in accessing sports and social activities in a kind, safe, non-judgemental environment. Families often tell them this is quite unique and often Rossendale Rays sessions are the only place they can visit as a whole family.
Nearly 20 years on, Rossendale Rays now provides fun activities like snow tubing, cycling and swimming to over 300 families across Lancashire. They hold regular social events, a programme of activities throughout school holidays and after school provision and daytime provision for adults. Clare, the Co-founder, works tirelessly and selflessly to ensure sessions are running safely and most importantly, that everyone is having fun!
Deaf Scots Trust
Deaf Scots Trust was first established in 2020 with a view to connect the deaf community together in the community and we have been on a journey making funding available to individuals, community groups and small charities to allow them to flourish.
We enjoy seeing applications that come in for funding support and we have had to make some tough decisions when discussing these applications because we only have a certain amount to release every year. We are a deaf-led charity supporting deaf-led projects and Deaf Scots Trust support them in developing those projects.
We continue to be a very small charity but we are reaching out to all parts of Scotland and this can be seen in the geographical remit of the funding applications received.
Some of the projects we have supported are The Deaf Claypits Group, Peebles High School BSL Project, St Vincent’s Deaf Centre, Scottish BSL Outdoor Activities and Glasgow Deaf Athletic Football Club to name a few. We will continue to support Scotland's community of all those that are Deaf or have a hearing loss and build our foundations as we head towards a Scotland that is the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work and visit as part of the BSL Scotland Act 2015.
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Bankside Open Space Trust (BOST) has expanded it's free horticultural training course aimed at people who have struggled to access further education or training. The course, Future Gardeners, is currently run three times a year from our charity hub Living Space in London's Waterloo but has proven so successful we've been able to launch a version at the Olympic Park with the (LLDC) London Legacy Development Corporation, The Skills Centre and idverde. Future Gardeners is not only free, it also enables people to gain a City & Guilds Qualification, participate in hands on work experience in some of London's top parks and gardens, and make connections with the horticultural industry's major employers. Developed by BOST and the Worshipful Company of Gardeners with the Royal Parks Guild in 2017, Future Gardeners has launched the horticultural careers of over 100 students with 76% of those who complete the course now working in the horticultural industry. Horticulture is currently facing a huge skills shortage so Future Gardeners is much needed, providing a barrier-free route into the wide range of careers the industry has to offer. While delighting employers who struggle to fill those entry-level roles.
From a charity on the verge of closing in 2019 to last year supporting the most vulnerable to claim nearly £500,000 in benefit claims and tripling its staff team to work in 4 out of the 5 districts in Cambridgeshire, for a small, local charity we have a big punch.
Here is what one of our clients said:
“The help has been brilliant. I felt reassured and always had nice chats with my volunteer. I struggle quite a bit and she helped signpost me to the mental health team who have now been in contact. They have offered me support groups which I plan to go to now. I feel she was watching over me and I couldn’t have made it without her. I would have tried something silly if I hadn’t had the support from her. DISH is just fantastic – my caseworker support, the ease of it has been phenomenal. I am now able to clear my debts and get a car. It’s helped me so much”.
Willow’s Rainbow Box
In February 2015, our small charity started supplying our comfort boxes for families pregnant after loss throughout England. We are a small team of volunteers dedicated to supporting families through pregnancy after loss.
We have now provided nearly 150 boxes to families in need. Our team is made up of people with lived experience of pregnancy loss and pregnancy after loss as well as people who work to support those going through loss and pregnancy after loss.
We do this work as we want to help promote positive mental health and well-being for these families and to help reduce some of the anxiety from this journey.
Birmingham Community Matters
Birmingham Community Matters (BCM) supports people in Birmingham to set up, run and grow small community/voluntary groups. One of our main activities is holding informal, friendly events around the city where people can pop in and meet our 'BCM helpers' - volunteers with lots of experience of running groups.
Our BCM helpers sit alongside people, listen to their ideas and challenges, and then come up with simple next steps together. Our BCM helpers always end up learning things too - and that's why we call BCM a peer learning network.
Our motto is 'Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach'. While we have techniques to measure our impact, it's not always possible to capture all the sparks of inspiration that fly when you bring people together. With every event, we see people bouncing ideas off each other, sharing contacts, info and stories, and widening their networks.
That's why we love doing what we do. We're busy at the moment expanding our reach across the city, working in venues we haven't been to before, and often setting up a stall when/where other community events are taking place.
The Reading List Foundation
We're a charity that help exceptional students from lower-income families succeed at university, by funding their textbooks.
We started out small (we awarded 12 Scholarships in our first year in 2016), but have grown every year since, and a couple of weeks ago posted out a record 475 Scholarship awards to state schools and colleges across England.
As we said at the time, weighed down by envelopes, "we think we're gonna need a bigger post box."
We are a small charity consisting of two Founders and one Comms and Engagement Manager. So far in our short, but fruitful journey, we have produced over 30 films for charities for FREE and enjoyed meeting numerous amazing charity staff in the process.
We have managed to enter 5 of our films into the Charity Film awards finals and received a silver award for the peoples choice entry for the under 100,000 category! Since this success we have now started to launch our Q and A workshops to support even more smaller charities learn about the importance of storytelling.
The charity was started just over 10 years ago by the Kendrick family after their son Joseph was born with non-ketotic hyperglycinaemia (NKH), a rare genetic metabolic condition.
There is currently no cure, limited treatment and most children before adulthood and are profoundly disabled. The charity is completely managed by volunteers, but they have managed to raise over £1000000 by organising football matches, walks, lotteries and other events. This money goes to raise awareness of the condition and to research at Great Ormond Street where there is a real prospect of treatment using gene replacement therapy.
The charity also organises conferences for affected families to meet and find out how research is progressing. Recently they organised a football match with many Wigan FC legends and even Roberto Martinez, the head coach of the Portuguese national team.
All this work is done by family and friends, on top of working and caring for Joseph and his siblings. "I had a daughter affected by NKH, who sadly died aged 12. I knew a cure wouldn’t come in time for her, but am hopeful that babies born with NKH in the future will have the prospect of a cure," - Sarah.
BanktheFood is a UK charity established in 2021.
The BanktheFood app is designed to connect supporters with their local food bank, and sends out a list of most needed items whenever the food bank runs low on essentials. Not only that, but its location technology enables it to send those registered on the app a list of most needed items as they enter the supermarket, so that supporters can easily pick up a few extra items to donate before even reaching the checkout. 36,000 people are already using the platform to make regular donations, helping 350 food banks in communities across the UK – with more people and food banks signing up to the app every day.
The charity collaborates with food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens – many of whom are small charities in their own right – to help promote and remind people that they need support, so that they can get what they need. Earlier in the year, BanktheFood had the opportunity to work with comedian Joe Lycett, HelpFilm, and Pistachio Studios to create a promotional film #NotJustBakedBeans that helped spread the word and get many more people using the app. In May, the charity celebrated a significant milestone when its 200,000th donation was made through the app.
Food banks across the country have praised BanktheFood for revolutionising the way they communicate with their supporters, allowing them to get exactly what they need to make nutritious food parcels quickly. BanktheFood’s goal is to have every food bank registered on the app and continue to build the community of kindness it has started to create.