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Small but mighty – key takeaways from our Small Charities conference

12 July 2019

Sharing the triumphs and challenges that small charities experience can be hugely beneficial to us all as comms professionals. This can be especially true for those who might be the sole communicator in their organisation. This certainly came through in the talks from the host of top speakers at our annual Small Charities conference.

Here are some of the themes which came up throughout the day.

Know when to say no

When you’re a communicator in a small charity, you’re often juggling a hundred and one priorities, meaning you must be strategic with your resources. Part of being strategic is knowing when to say ‘no’ to opportunities that don’t best serve you. This was brought up in different forms throughout the day. From digital investment to media opportunities, our speakers urged delegates to isolate those things which would serve their mission and say no to the rest, which though perhaps a ‘nice-to-have’ would only take time away from other important, strategic activities. For the UK’s leading independent race equality thinktank, The Runnymede Trust, this means only engaging in media opportunities which advance their key messages, rather than wasting physical and emotional resource fighting unhelpful narratives about race relations.

For charity-focused digital marketing agency, Platypus Digital, this means investing time in those digital activities and resources which offer the highest return on investment and help users get what they need from your digital presence. Here are managing director Matt Collins’ top three activities to invest time in:


Your size is your strength

It’s important to keep in mind the benefits of being part of a small charity (especially on those days where you feel like you need five extra hands to be doing your job). Your size means you can be more agile than larger organisations, as you are often closer to your cause. This means it can be much more straightforward for you when it comes to learning from those you aim to support. Here are some of the ways this was put forward at our conference:

  • Strengthen your brand: Community Organisers worked with their grassroots network to shape their rebrand. The organisation’s communications manager Jon Cousins told us this gave the network ownership of the brand and a stake in keeping the identity alive.

  • Innovate better: When trying to innovate, involve the people you’re innovating for. As Henry Rowling from charity innovation agency Flying Cars pointed out, a group of people over 45 trying to find ideas to relate to young people will be far less successful without input from young people.
  • Shape your comms: Pippa Gardner from the UK-wide youth organisation Woodcraft Folk got their members and volunteers involved in their volunteer recruitment video, giving an insight into why volunteers should sign up, and what they might gain from it.

Lean on your community

Sometimes it’s just about reminding yourself (and your colleagues) that you’re on the right path and what you think is right is, in fact, right. That can be harder to be confident of when you’re the only comms person in your organisation, or your job is split among various responsibilities. This is where it’s useful to know other people facing similar problems. Utilise your connections and community as much as you can. Reach out to other charity comms professionals through our network for example, or as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the CharityComms team if there’s something we can help with – it’s what we’re here for.

We were blown away to see the appetite for progress demonstrated by smaller organisations at the small charities conference, and the innovative ways in which charities told us they were stretching their resource to achieve incredible results. As a small organisation ourselves, we totally relate to some of the struggles and took so much knowledge and inspiration from all the great speakers. If you want to catch up on what was discussed on the day check out all the speaker slides here.

Molly Clarke

former digital content officer, CharityComms

Molly was formerly the digital content officer at CharityComms and a Charity Works fellow. Before CharityComms, she was studying for her MA in International Development. Prior to that, she directed, produced and edited film projects both in a corporate and not-for-profit setting in the UK and internationally.