The importance of small charities

By Andy Pitt, Head of Charities, London

Rathbones is delighted to have supported Small Charity Week this year, and we were very pleased to have been asked to speak on the ‘importance of small charities’ at the Small Charity Week Policy Day Reception. The reception was hosted by Nick Hurd MP and took place in the prestigious Churchill Room at the Cabinet Office on the evening of 18 June 2014.

Small Charities Logo

Rathbones would like to congratulate Small Charity Week on winning the Big Society Award, presented by Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd on behalf of the Prime Minister. The award recognises the efforts and influence of Small Charity Week in highlighting the work done by small charities and their contribution to the communities throughout the UK.

Small charities are enormously important.  Most of us are well aware that there are a relatively small number of large charities that permeate the public consciousness in a major way.  But there is, of course, a very large number of small, often local, organisations which, while they may be small in terms of their measurable income and assets, have an enormous collective impact in ways that are not so easily measurable.  The often under-appreciated contribution of these many organisations is a core part of what makes our society function so well here in the UK. For example, the vast majority of the millions of volunteers mobilised by the sector each year serve small charities, and these volunteers work across many communities and across nearly every conceivable sphere of activity. 

What’s more, the activities of these organisations represent far more than their respective causes.  You have people actively thinking about their responsibility to give, rather than their right to receive, something that is fundamental to the very fabric of our society.  You have empowered, committed, passionate local people making a local difference.  That is not to downplay the importance of big charities at all as they are fantastic at what they do, although it could be argued that it is harder for large organisations to create long term, sustainable, personal ownership on the ground than it is for many smaller local charities.  Deborah Allcock-Tyler, chief executive at the Directory of Social Change, uses the good analogy of a large elephant walking alongside a tiny ant being much less aware of the texture of the surface of the ground on which it walks than the ant which feels every tiny bump along the way.

One other attractive feature of smaller charities is their ability to adapt and the current economic environment is forcing many charities, both large and small, to adapt. Small charities can potentially be more nimble and flexible than their larger peers and as a result, can be hugely innovative and creative.  Many smaller charities are moving to different operating models. For example becoming more focused on generating income or selling their physical assets and moving to a more networked/sharing approach.  In short, we are seeing enormous innovation and new solutions to problems and much of that is being driven by charities at the smaller end of the spectrum.

We are proud to support the Small Charity Week as its objectives are very much in line with our own. At Rathbones, we:

  1. Support and recognise the contribution that small charities make to communities;
  2. Offer training and seminars to all in the small charity sector, not just our clients; and,
  3. Engage in events which highlight the importance of public giving and community support.

Rathbones manages £2.7 billion* on behalf of charities across all sectors, but over 87% of our charity clients by number have less than £5m under management. We understand smaller charities and aim to meet each charity’s investment requirements. We don’t use relationship managers: you have direct access to your charity investment specialist and communications are delivered when and how you want them.

* As at 31 December 2013

If you would like to know more about the Rathbones investment services for charities, please contact Andy Pitt on 020 7399 0296 or email

Rate this page:
No votes yet