The value of small: Evidencing the distinctive contribution of small and medium sized charities

The value of small: Evidencing the distinctive contribution of small and medium sized charities

May 2017



This new study will take an in-depth look at the vital social and economic role of small and medium sized charities operating at a local level in England and Wales. There are 43,000 small and medium-sized charities* in England and Wales. They account for more than a third of all general charities and many provide vital services to people facing multiple and complex disadvantage, including homeless people, victims of domestic abuse and people battling substance misuse.

Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales have chosen to invest in the study at a time when small charities are seeing rising demand for their service, yet are facing unprecedented funding pressures, due to cuts and complex and inappropriate contracting and commissioning processes for public service delivery.

Research questions

Key questions will include understanding the role small and medium-sized charities play in tackling disadvantage, directly and in partnership with other local service providers, analysing their distinctive features in comparison to large charities, examining their value for money and wider social value, and looking at the most effective ways of funding them.

Research lead

Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research

Delivery partners


Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership at the Open University Business School

Sheffield Business School

Comment from the team

“Small local charities play a vital role supporting some of the most disadvantaged people in society and increasingly have to fill large gaps in provision created by the deep and ongoing cuts to public services. But there is concern that their work is under-valued and poorly understood, particularly in relation to larger charities that have been much more successful at winning public service contracts to support key client groups. This research aims to fill a large gap in the evidence base about what it is that makes small local charities distinct and identify the value they create for their clients, communities and public sector bodies.”

Chris Dayson, senior research fellow at CRESR and lead for the study

“The OUBS’s CVSL aims to build capacity in the small and medium voluntary sector, and the findings from this study will contribute vital knowledge on the local contribution of these charities that will strengthen the role of leadership.”

James Rees, senior research fellow at Open University Business School

“When the most vulnerable in communities need help it is often those working in small organisations that are there or notice first – right at the hard shoulder of support. More than that, they step in and prevent degeneration and empower change. Research like this is essential to shed light and increase awareness and understanding of their value and contribution – work that is often assumed to be a provision of the state.”

Leila Baker, head of research at the Institute for Voluntary Action Research

“Many small and local charities are struggling to survive due to unprecedented funding pressures and rising, more complex demand for their services. People who have their lives changed as a result of local charities know how indispensable they are, but many others don’t. With complex political and policy change ahead, it’s more important than ever that we are able to provide robust evidence to answer the question of why small charities are so important – not just for individuals and communities, but the taxpayer too, and to help make a clear and compelling case for why they must be supported.”

Paul Streets, Chief Executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales

Time frames

Spring 2017 – Spring 2018

Further information

For further information about our contribution please email Leila@ivar.org.uk

For press information please contact Martin Webb in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email m.webb@shu.ac.uk.

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