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Choosing a charity for your business to work with is an important, and possibly tricky, decision to make. One major factor to consider is the scale and size of the charity that you would like to affiliate with, and the advantages and disadvantages that are posed by big and small charities. Do you want work locally or internationally? Where will your work make the biggest impact? Do you go big or small? Here’s what to take into account when deciding what size is the best fit for you.

 

The Case for Big Charities

The initial advantages of large charities are similar to those of any other national or international organisation. Large charities are vast, long-established networks that readily wield the resources to carry out campaigns and projects efficiently and to maximum effect. One important resource is people – only 9% of all registered charities in England and Wales employ paid staff, whilst the remaining 91% rely on volunteers. Paid professionals are likely to be trained and experienced, and able to deliver a higher quality of work ‘on the ground’, which is – after all – where the most important charitable work often happens. Additionally, it is professionals in the field who are most likely to have the ears of, and leverage over, politicians and other policy-makers. For example, in 2009, following a campaign by the national housing charity, Shelter, The House of Lords passed a ruling that women who left their homes in order the flee domestic violence would no longer be classified as ‘intentionally homeless’ and must be offered priority housing by local authorities – clearly, a victory with momentous implications.

Conversely, many cite paid staff as a reservation about large charities. There is a common skepticism over the exact percentage of monetary donations that contribute directly towards charitable work, rather than funding inevitable day-to-day costs of running a large organisation. Whilst international charities offer the opportunity to reach people and projects across the globe, they may also be prone to bureaucracy. This leads to a fear of donations becoming lost within the system, or simply being used to pay the hefty salaries of bosses, which reportedly averaged £255,000 a year within the UK’s top 100 charities.

To combat this, charities have aimed for greater transparency and often display the data of where monetary donations are spent on their websites. For example, the website of the international charity, Wateraid, readily displays information such as the fact that 77p of every £1 donated goes directly to the cause, and publishes yearly reports on their work for public viewing. Furthermore, donating money is far from the only way of  contributing to a charity; volunteering provides a palpable mode of giving that allows employees to see exactly what their work is achieving.

 

The Case for Small Charities

In comparison, charities which operate on a smaller level are likely to be less prone to bureaucracy and hierarchy.  This can translate into greater efficiency, faster decision making and more efficacious services. Additionally, grass-roots organizations, which sprung from the communities they now work within, will have a more intimate knowledge of that local area and close ties with the community. This can help them to deliver a more personal and comprehensive service than an international charity which has come into the community, rather than from it. Furthermore, whilst the international reach of large charities is an incredibly important thing, working locally with charities may be more practical for your employees over a longer period of time. It is giving and volunteering for a sustained period that can be most rewarding as it provides the opportunity to see tangible results first-hand.

Another important factor to consider when affiliating your corporation with a charity, is the reputation of that charity. When it comes to reputation, bigger doesn’t necessarily equal better. Larger networks are inherently harder to manage and monitor, and so any misconduct is more liable to go unchecked; this is exemplified in the recent scandals which have struck Oxfam and Save the Children, and have been widely reported in the press. Taking into account the fact that in 2016, a YouGov poll reported that only 38% of people surveyed said they ‘trusted’ the charity sector (a drop from 54% three years prior), large charities’ large reputations aren’t necessarily positive. It may then be worth considering working with smaller charities, less prone to high profile scandal, as unflattering media coverage clearly mars public opinion.

Lastly, in the case for supporting small charities, is the fact that they may very well need your support. With cuts to local council budgets, grants for charities fell from £6bn in 2003 to £2.2 bn in 2013, and continue to fall to this day, in an attempt to save cash. It is small charities that are hit hardest by these cuts, and so they become ever more reliant on donations and voluntary work.

 

There are opportunities and obstacles for both big and small charities, and whilst neither is necessarily better than the other, they both serve different functions. What is ultimately most important to consider is whether a charity mirrors your ideals and goals within the local and international community, and, whether you go big or small, to choose a charity which your employees can be really passionate about working with.


Hannah Rowan

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