By Lewis Garland
“Black Friday” evokes images of feral, foraging bargain hunters and TV screen tug-of-wars.
Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday has become something of an antidote to these consumerist excesses. Taking place on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday is a global day of philanthropy .
The emergence of Giving Tuesday has created a valuable space for the voices of charities, altruistic causes and community projects, rarely heard amid the clunking of shopping trollies. On 1st December people across the world will be donating, volunteering or campaigning for causes they care about.
The sentiment behind this movement is hugely positive. The challenge for those of us in the voluntary sector is to channel this sentiment in a way that can have a tangible and sustained impact – to persuade people to not only give with their heart, but to decide how and to whom they give with their heads.
At present, the overwhelming amount of public donations given in the UK go to just a handful of large national or international organisations. A 2014 report by the Centre for Social Justice found that just seven per cent of all donations made in the UK go to small charities.
This should not come as a surprise. Large, national or international charities are far better equipped to capture our attention and move us to give than their smaller local cousins. The emotive words and images that accompany us in our journeys to and from work are the fruit of big budgets and versed marketers. Comparably, fewer than a quarter of local groups in the UK feel they have the skills to run a successful fundraising campaign; just 14% employ specialist marketing staff.
The consequences of this situation are plain to see. Over the summer I co-authored a report for Localgiving on the sustainability of the local voluntary sector, the findings of which were deeply worrying.
Local charities and community groups have witnessed a huge surge in service demand, driven principally by cuts in statutory services. This has been accompanied by ever dwindling funding opportunities. Competition for limited grants and contracts is fierce, the vast majority going to larger groups. The local voluntary sector is now stretched to its absolute capacity with only 15% of groups feeling adequately resourced to meet a further escalation in demand.
Moreover, the focus on tackling immediate needs has left little time or resources for addressing long-term issues such as building reserves and bolstering core skills. This situation is entirely unsustainable and local charities are acutely aware of their predicament with just 47% of groups confident that they will survive the next 5 years.
From support groups to soup kitchens, arts projects to conservation schemes, grassroots charities are the very life-blood of our communities. With their deep rooted local knowledge, these groups are unique in their ability to build trusting relationships and access hard to reach demographics. The loss of these groups will have huge repercussions. Not only could it have a devastating impact on direct beneficiaries who are more reliant than ever on the services of local charities, but it could also enervate our civil society as a whole.
It is in all of our interests to ensure that local charities receive the resources and recognition they need. The question, then, is how we can make this happen.
There is no doubting that structural changes are required at both a local and national level if smaller charities are to receive a fair and effective distribution of funds. Such changes will need to involve the government, business, philanthropists and the media, as well as the sector itself. However, as with all successful movements, the impetus for change must come from the general public.
Campaigns such as GivingTuesday provide an ideal platform from which to start.
As well as continuing to support the big charity brands, we should think of Giving Tuesday as an opportunity to discover the numerous grassroots groups in our communities.
You may find that you have the very skills a local group needs – be it teaching, tweeting, bookkeeping or baking . You may be inspired to fundraise or donate to a local cause through campaigns such as Localgivings #GiveMe5 campaign. Whatever you do, it is important that you add your voice to the chorus of those calling for small, local charities to be given the appreciation, exposure and resources they need to flourish.
GivingTuesday has given us a stage – so now is the time to act.
To find out more about how you can support local charities and community groups this #GivingTuesday go to givingtuesday.localgiving.com.