This guest blog from Caroline Howe, National Programmes Manager at Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, looks at their latest research into small and local charities. Their research provides evidence into the distinctive role of small charities and the importance not only of what they do but how they do it. The final Clinks Track TR report showed that smaller organisations were overlooked in Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). Through examining the distinctive value of smaller organisations, it becomes clear what is lost when funds through systems like TR fail to reach smaller charities working on the frontline.
One of the aims of Transforming Rehabilitation was to open up the market and increase work with charities. Yet Clinks’ final Track TR report shows that charities are underrepresented in the £900m programme. Small and local charities have typically been shut out from funding opportunities despite their specialism and significant contribution to resettlement and rehabilitation services. Does this matter?
As a funder partnering with small and local charities for over 30 years, you’d probably expect us to say that. Ask anyone who interacts with their services and they’ll most likely agree too. But can we really demonstrate why it matters?
If we’re going to influence others to make systems work for smaller charities, it’s vital that we can explain why. New research funded by the Foundation does just that. Led by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, IVAR and the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at the Open University, the research takes an in-depth look at what makes small and local charities special.
What does make small and local charities distinctive?
It’s not just what they do, but for who, how and where they sit in the broader system that gives us the answers:
- A distinctive service offer – not least, they create spaces where people feel safe and respected without fear of being stigmatised.
- A distinctive approach – by shaping support around the person they can provide responsive services built on relationships of trust that are needed for long-term engagement.
- A distinctive position – a mix of provision is important and within this, smaller charities typically provide the glue that holds these services together.
While each of these features is valuable in their own right, the greatest value comes through the combination of all three – adding up to more than the sum of their parts. Yet is that enough to convince decision-makers to ensure whatever comes next in criminal justice embraces the work of small charities that are often specialists in their field? On its own, probably not. That’s why the research also looks at the difference this distinctive offer makes.
The distinctive offer benefits individuals and the economy
For anyone engaged in any rehabilitation services, the outcome for the individual will, quite rightly, always be front and centre. While each charity will find its own way to demonstrate how they deliver impact, the research highlights the added value that comes as a result of the way small charities work and what they do. Their distinctive services and approach help charities to meet needs, not least by helping people to achieve small wins, such as building confidence and self-esteem which lay the foundations for longer-term outcomes. Often taken as a given, their ability to facilitate long-term engagement is critical in transforming lives.
For the economy, we can see that small and local charities not only re-invest locally (and with a combined income of £7.2 billion, that’s no small sum) but by helping people to turn their lives around long term, small and local charities have a key role in driving down the demands on public services. Given the increasing pressures on services, that is most definitely needed now more than ever.
We also shouldn’t forget the additional value small charities bring into the local area either. Whether it’s from volunteering hours or leveraging in additional funding from foundations like us or other fundraising efforts, small and local charities are consistently delivering wide-reaching social and economic benefits.
All this no doubts reinforces what many of you have been thinking for some time – that great opportunities have been missed through Transforming Rehabilitation. At the Foundation we will be using this research to push for change – so that small charities are at the heart of what comes next for not just probation but for services tackling a range of complex social issues right across England and Wales. But you can use it too. Whether you’re meeting with officials, building partnerships or competing for funding, this research adds further strength to your arm – independent evidence which demonstrates the value you bring through the way you work and what you do as a small and local charity. We’ve always thought you’re special. Now we’ve got the evidence to back it up to convince those who wield power why things need to change, with recommendations as to how.