Supporting Small Charities in Norfolk

Community Action Norfolk on The Challenges Affecting Small Charities

I write this as we finish a day at The Forum in Norwich supporting The Kearns Foundations’ Norfolk Small Charities Showcase, which launched celebrations for Small Charities Week in June (24th to 28th).  Small Charities Week seeks to amplify, support, and connect small charities across the UK, helping them to showcase their considerable value and supporting them to have an even greater impact despite the many challenges.

Among the many conversations today there was a theme which came up time and time again: It is HARD to get started.  Not only do you need to have the confidence that it is the right thing to do, plus time to commit, but you also need so much help to navigate the many pitfalls and challenges in your way.  Fortunately, you are not alone and there is help available at every step. That’s because for us every week is Small Charities Week!

Support for small charities is particularly important in the current climate given that the challenges have never been greater, as funding is squeezed, volunteering is changing and demands on services are unprecedented.

The challenges small charities are facing

Banking has been of particular note in recent months. Many charities are reporting frozen accounts, long delays in setting up accounts and banks generally failing to support them.  This is exacerbated by the closure of rural branches and the general loss of rural infrastructure.

Working with our national umbrella body ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), we have challenged the banks and are supporting the Charity Commission as it renews calls for urgent action to be taken by the banking sector to improve the service it offers to charities.

The regulator recognised that poor banking services result in three key concerns:

  • Risks to the provision of charitable services, resulting from charities being unable to meet financial obligations such as paying staff
  • Unsafe banking and financial practices, e.g. using trustees’ personal bank accounts – a direct contravention of the Charity Commission’s guidance
  • Longer-term impact on the morale of volunteer trustees

Transport is another key issue for many small charities. We have worked with Transport East to raise the profile of rural transport in the region. In March, we saw the launch of Rural connections: transport challenges and opportunities for communities in the East. This provides a set of recommendations for the Transport East Forum and both local and National  government. Recommendations focus on rebalancing the policy and investment environment to ensure rural communities are no longer disadvantaged in transport decisions.

Support available for small charities

Such is the level of concern around issues which are clearly exacerbated by rural disadvantage, that ACRE have launched No Rural Community Left Behind, a suite of policy recommendations for the next government. It is sending these to parliamentary candidates for rural communities across England.  It is hoped this will trigger a debate about what it takes to represent rural communities in 2024.

We have not forgotten that our key focus is on Norfolk’s charities and voluntary sector, and as part of the Empowering Communities Partnership we can help you access the widest possible support.  We will continue to campaign, support, and inform on all the issues which are challenging charities – be it rural transport, governance, supporting volunteers, cybercrime, finding funding, or any other challenge preventing you from developing as a thriving charity, social enterprise or community group.

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