How local infrastructure supports small charities

February 12, 2024

It's officially #SmallCharityWeek, but every week is Small Charity Week for the 180 NAVCA members based across England, supporting over 165,000 charities and community groups. In this blog post, we explore what our members do, and how they are providing crucial support to their local voluntary sectors.

NAVCA members are local infrastructure organisations (LIOs), and we know that it can be difficult to explain what they do - because they do so much! That's why we worked with our members to develop the Four Functions of Infrastructure. These are four categories that our members' work broadly fits into, though this can look very different depending on each local area and context. As we celebrate Small Charity Week, we wanted to highlight the amazing work of our members in supporting small charities, with the majority of them being small charities themselves.

The first function of infrastructure is leadership and advocacy. We believe that communities, including both individuals and organisations, should have an impact on decisions that affect where they live. NAVCA members are leaders and advocates in their communities, mobilising action to strengthen our sector’s voice and influence on key decision-makers and funders. Our members bring together diverse groups and marginalised communities to mobilise ambition and aspiration, and small charities are often at the centre of this. For example, many of our members work in their integrated care boards (ICBs) or local resilience forums (LRFs), making sure the voice of the voluntary sector is heard in important strategic partnerships.

Our members also work to build partnerships and collaborations. We know that places and communities are strengthened when organisations work collaboratively on a range of different projects. Our members create opportunities and drive effective joint working by building networks and partnerships between local organisations and strategic partners. Through nurturing these trusted and reliable relationships, communities are better equipped in both times of crisis and in the development of ongoing projects. Our members often build partnerships with organisations such as local councils, the NHS, and other local support organisations, including small charities.

Capacity building, or community development, is also a key way that our members support small charities and community groups locally. When local voluntary and community organisations have access to practical support, people and communities become more resilient and able to flourish. Our members provide resources or advice to facilitate community development. This work is both strategic and developmental, building strong foundations so that the local voluntary, community and social enterprise sector thrives. For example, 91% of our members provided one to one practical support and guidance for VCSE organisations in 2021-22.

Finally, it would be impossible to talk about small charities and what our members do without mentioning volunteering. Volunteering, whether formal or informal, is integral to thriving communities. It means that people can build connections and work together on things they care about, driving positive change locally. 88% of our members advertise or promote volunteering opportunities, helping small charities reach a wider audience and continue their great work.

This Small Charity Week, one of the key themes is the future of infrastructure support for small charities. At NAVCA, we will continue to advocate for and amplify the voices of our members, so that they can build sustainable futures for themselves and the communities they support.