Published: 12 September 2013

The comms insider – The little things

My main focus in this blog so far has been on issues affecting large charities, so to redress the balance I’ve decided to write about the pros and cons of small charities.

In general I prefer working for small charities for one simple reason: they haven’t lost the heart and soul of what they do. Invariably this is because the organisation is still of a sufficiently small size to allow its staff to feel connected with the cause, and to have regular experience of the ‘front line’ and the beneficiaries they exist to support. Along with the many positives of working for a small charity, there are also numerous frustrations, five of which I will share with you here:

1. Big brother is watching

While CEOs of large charities often sit in their ivory towers, rarely (if ever) walking the floors amongst the poor, insignificant souls who dwell in the bowels of the building in which they reside (yet actually do 90% of the hard work), CEOs of small charities, in contrast, are often so involved in the daily goings-on of the organisation it’s hard to keep them out of every little issue that rears its head. The result? Big brother is watching you, and it isn’t half belittling.

2. Going back in time

One key benefit of working for a large charity is that the technology will more than likely be upgraded on a regular basis, meaning that employees can at least rely on efficient email and internet speeds. Small charities, however, by virtue of their size and lower income are often unable to afford to upgrade every time it’s needed. The result? Computers running at a snail’s pace and staff so frustrated by their inability to be productive they can often be found banging their head against their desks in despair.

3. Budget, budget, budget

I’ve moaned about how much money large charities waste, but at least they aren’t shy of sending their employees on courses to further their development. In a small charity the budget is understandably tighter which, in turn, means there are bound to be financial ramifications where staff benefits are concerned – not a huge problem in the short term, granted, but it could be damaging for career progression in the longer term.

4. Get out of my face

Big charities are often bloated and unwieldy when it comes to staffing numbers, but at least when there’s someone who gets right on your last nerve you can hide amongst the crowd and avoid them, or at the very least request a desk move to another part of the cavernous office. In a small charity it’s likely you’ll be sat directly opposite them in a small, windowless office with no hope of escape until one of you leaves. Or dies.

5. You’re calling from where?

When you work for a large charity and call a journalist with a feature idea the chances are they will have heard of your organisation and won’t dismiss you out of hand even if they do decline your offer. If you work for a small charity, conversely, it’s likely that unless you have the scoop of the century they’ll politely decline while making a mental note to avoid picking up the phone to your number in future. Without either meaning or deserving to, you’ve been consigned to the small charity slush pile, and you’ll need a miracle – or at the very least a few million extra pounds in organisational income – before your voice will be listened to again.

So, large or small? The choice is yours.


Anonymous, Mystery UK charity

The comms insider is an anonymous comms professional working at a UK charity. S/he wishes to remain incognito so as to be able to write frankly about his/her experiences and opinions.