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Thursday, 19 February 2009

On 09:00 by Rizwan Tayabali
Children England, the umbrella group for children's charities just published results of a survey of small charities (under £250,000). Turns out 4 out of 10 are now in a vulnerable state and could be facing closure if their fundings don't come through. This is up from 1 in 10 in 2007, which is a clearly indictment of the current situation.

Unfortunately this is something I'd predicted a little while ago in my post "Will Charities Survive The Credit Crunch?"

The charities closer to this size are feeling it worst. It's a problem I'm seeing with BANG Edutainment too. The underlying issue that the funding needed directly reflects operating costs, which are based on contracted outputs or services. Raising funding in the quarter to half million bracket is very hard right now, because typically it relies on lots of small sources rather than one massive one. If even a small number of the sources of funding are impacted by the credit crunch it means that operating costs cannot be met and without the reserves of profit making organisations, debts pile up very fast.

Scaling down unfortunately is not as easy as you might imagine either. To do this in advance of a financial crisis requires significant strategic pessimism; which commercial organisations typically dont have, let alone charitable ones. If you haven't already anticipated problems, the tightly stretched capacity of charities means that there is little or no room to adapt, and their close knit nature means that letting staff go is an absolutely last ditch choice; one that is usually held off in the hope of new funding coming through and rarely made until its too late. The result is a pile up of salary, overheads and tax debts by this point, leaving the organisation little option but to close.

A survival strategy that is not being considered carefully enough by many small charities is partnerships. I'll discuss these in more detail in my next post.