Growing your charity in the face of cuts

By Sue Wixley 26 October 2010

McDonalds. Volunteer numbers. Military enlistment. What do they have in common? They all grew during the recession. But could we add charities to this list too?

At NPC’s latest breakfast event, Scaling up for the Big Society, we heard from three speakers, all with hands-on experience of scaling up. We learnt from two charities that have successfully expanded their services despite the tough economic climate. We also heard about Impetus Trust a funder that takes a venture philanthropy approach and works with charities and social enterprises to scale up their work.

One of the charities, Contact a Family, has scaled up by partnering with the global corporate, Serco, to help local authorities across the UK provide short breaks for families with disabled children.

The other, Family Nurse Partnership (based on the successful maternal and early childhood health programme in the States), scaled up its work by working with government and licensing its model. It now reaches 60,000 vulnerable families, providing intensive support to young mothers and their babies to try to prevent future problems linked to social exclusion.

Both of these approaches are ones highlighted in NPC’s report, Scaling up for the Big Society. Partnership was one of the suggestions put forward in NPC’s recent report Preparing for cuts as a way for charities to increase their chances of survival and build a more attractive case for commissioners. This report looks to highlight the opportunities on offer to charities as a result of the Big Society and new funding environment, as well as the challenges.

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family agrees. ‘There is a massive opportunity in the current environment for charities and corporates to put aside their prejudices of each other and work together to solve social problems.’

We hope the events encourage charities to believe that while times may be tough, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom.

  • Today’s seminar is the second in a series of Big Society events put together by NPC. It follows an earlier seminar on how charities can communicate their impact (to be repeated on 6th December) and precedes one on how charities can engage communities in the Big Society on 18th November. (There are still a few places left if you’d like to take part.)