Speak directly to an expert
Published June 2018
91 percent of registered charities have no paid staff at all, according to NCVO. Those who do may still struggle to master the skills they need: nearly half of small charities say they need some or significant upskilling in strategic use of IT (49 percent) and impact reporting (48 percent), according to the FSI’s skills survey.
But the UK also has a well-developed infrastructure to support small charities and nonprofits, often for free or at a very low cost.
Below are some places UK-based charities can access one-to-one expert help. Eligibility requirements vary, so check the criteria carefully.
- Big Advice Day: this is part of Small Charities Week (which runs from 18-25 June in 2018). This national event gathers dozens of experts together in one place, over one day, covering a whole host of subjects. Tell the FSI what you need, and they’ll match you with an expert in that field. Bookings are closed for this year, but the event is run annually. Local events are also held across the country throughout the week.
- Small Charity Advice Hub: also provided by the FSI, this connects small charities with experts on subjects ranging from governance to HR, and from business planning to fundraising. Advice sessions are held remotely, usually by phone or Skype. To access the hub you need to be a member of the FSI (membership is free to small charities and local community organisations). See their website for eligibility.
- Small Charities Coalition: the national umbrella and capacity-building organisation for small charities offers free skills sharing and mentoring, by matching you with an experienced individual or someone from another small charity. This can be anything from a one-off phone call to ongoing support over a couple of years, and can be remote or face-to-face. When you sign up, you’ll be asked what other skills and resources your charity has, so that one day you can help another charity in return.
- The Cranfield Trust: provides pro bono management consultancy from expert volunteers to charities working on poverty, disability or social exclusion. They have over 900 professional volunteers on their books, many with over 10 years’ experience in their area of expertise (marketing, finance, HR, IT, strategic planning or other management fields). The service is free, but charities are asked to cover volunteers’ expenses.
- Reach Volunteering: matches charities with skilled (3+ years’ experience) volunteers in various sectors, for both short term projects or ongoing operational roles. Simply sign up and post your volunteer opportunity — which is free if your income is below £1 million. Reach is also a good place to find new trustees.
- Stewardship: for Christian charities (and churches). Among the organisation’s services is a consultancy helpline that gives you access to expert knowledge from a range of technical specialists (including Includes tax, financial and legal experts) by phone or email. You have to apply for the service and there is a yearly fee, but it starts at just £120 per year.
If you’re looking for help with specific areas, you can try:
- Media Trust can match you up with expert media and creative professionals. The service is free and open to any registered charity in the UK.
- Pimp My Cause connects "causes" with professional marketers (strategists, advertisers, graphic designers, web developers, PR specialists and researchers). Causes need to be nonprofit organisations (including social enterprises) but can be based anywhere in the world.
- Datakind UK supports charities and social enterprises with data science projects. Submit your project, or if you’re in London, get face-to-face advice on working with data at the weekly drop-in session.
- CITA - Charity IT Help offers three levels of IT support: a two-hour phone consultation, guidance on defining and scoping an IT project, and full project delivery.
- LawWorks provides legal support for charities in England and Wales. They can provide pro bono legal advice on a wide range of legal issues; or they can match you with a volunteer lawyer on a longer-term basis, including to carry out a legal “health check”. Both services are available to organisations who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford such services (you’ll have to share a copy of your accounts).
- Pro Bono Economics matches volunteer economists with charities and social enterprises, to help you measure performance, improve services and better track outcomes. There’s a yearly deadline to submit your application, and a limited number of projects will be taken on. This one requires a turnover of between £100,000 and £1 million — larger organisations may be asked to contribute to Pro Bono Economics’ core costs.
Finally, don’t forget about your peers. Sometimes the most valuable advice comes from those who’ve been in the exact same situation you’re facing. Look out for Facebook or LinkedIn groups that target your particular sector or geographical region. Or try some of the groups on CharityConnect.
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