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Opinion: Small charities are the fabric that hold Australian communities together

Did you know that more than 80% of Australia’s charities having less than $1m annual revenue? Well it’s true and these small charities are crucial to our Australian society. They employ almost 100,000 people and engage more than 1.3 million volunteers.

Small charities are the fabric that hold Australian communities together, often working locally or focusing on areas of minority such as a rare, but life-debilitating, diseases or unusual endangered species of flora and fauna.

The latest ACNC Australian Charities Report indicates that between 25-37% of revenue for this subset of charities is from donations and bequests, compared to less than 10% for the largest organisations. This means that successful fundraising is integral to the success of smaller charities.

Over time, working with many of these organisations, I’ve come to learn that small charities often operate quite differently to larger ones. Resources are obviously limited and investing in professional development is challenging to prioritise. Their people are passionate and knowledgeable about the work of their organisation, but do not always have the fundraising skills and experience required to support that mission.

Fish Community Solutions is committed to advancing the charity sector by building the capabilities and skills of people working with small charities specifically. Our business focuses on the provision of education, coaching, strategic advice and support, and the Fish Scholarship is one way in which we can give back to the community, while help filling a gap in education needs.

The Fish Scholarship offers a place for one winner in the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Fundraising Essentials course. We know that professional development is vital to successful fundraising outcomes, but sometimes for small organisations there just isn’t a budget available for such things.

Smiles for Me is a small charity with less than $100,000 revenue annually that is run by volunteers, to improve the lives of children in the Philippines born with cleft lip & cleft palate deformities through delivering surgical missions. Mandy Linsey, from Smiles for Me, was our 2017 scholar who said the scholarship helped her to put in place procedures and strategies to help build their organisation so that it continues to grow and be able to support their surgical missions.

Another small charity, Holy Fools, supports people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness, living in poverty, or experiencing issues of injustice for people in Lilydale or the Yarra Valley. Their CEO, Neal Taylor, was our 2015 scholarship winner who said much of what he learnt through the course helped form the basis for their fundraising strategy for the following months and years.

We really hope the Fish Scholarship can again help someone from a small charity to develop additional skills, and really learn the theory behind the practice to make a significant difference in achieving their mission.

Architect Bianca Crocker is the Community Change Architect of Fish Community Solutions

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