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Small and medium-sized charities (SMCs) − whose annual income falls between £10,000 and £1 million − are a vital part of everyday life in communities across England and Wales. Most SMCs are based and operate at a local level and include a wide range of voluntary, community, social enterprise and civil society organisations. SMCs constitute 52 percent (64,000) of all registered charities and 19 percent (£7.2 billion) of charitable income (2014−15). Previous research has provided evidence in favour of sustaining a vibrant and healthy population of small and local charities, but there is very little robust evidence about what is distinctive and valuable about them relative to larger charities and public sector bodies. Addressing that gap is important now, more than ever, as SMCs are more likely to be adversely affected by cuts to public sector budgets and approaches to commissioning and procurement that favour economies of scale over more tailored and responsive approaches.
This research has focused on identifying the distinctive contribution and value of SMCs operating at a local level in England and Wales and understanding the funding challenges they face. It has involved four in-depth area level qualitative case studies − in Bassetlaw, Ealing, Salford and Wrexham − contextualised through original analysis of existing quantitative data. Overall, more than 150 people participated in the research through a series of workshops and interviews at an area and organisational level. Participants included paid staff, volunteers, trustees and service users representing SMCs, the wider voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, and the public sector.
The Executive Summary draws together the key findings and makes a number of recommendations for strategic action that follow from this research.