There’s a common misconception both in the charity sector and in society as a whole that a big impact can only really be delivered by a big charity. Yet I believe it’s the defining aspects of small charities – critical work delivered jointly by members, staff and trustees, underpinned by a close working relationship between trustees and staff – are often presented as a challenge when in reality, they’re an opportunity. I often think this mentality is applied to small charities by those from the outside, who don’t understand that some of the most common aspects shared by small charities are not only their biggest strength, but often their secret ingredient to success.
The British Youth Council is the National youth council for young people in the UK, running everything from the NHS Youth Forum, balloting over one million 11-18 year olds in Make Your Mark in the summer, and co-ordinating the official UK Youth Parliament; so, it might surprise some to know that we are indeed a small charity!
The brilliant thing about celebrations such as #SmallCharitiesWeek is that it gives charities like the British Youth Council the opportunity to shout loudly and proudly about the impactful work our members, staff and trustees do day in, day out. And it’s these three fundamental groups of people that are the driving force in ensuring a charity as small as us, can continue to punch consistently above our weight, empowering young people to be heard on the issues that affect us time and time again.
In small charities, members can more easily influence the vision of the charity. We launched our new strategy in 2018, consulted scores of young people and member organisations, and can confidently say that our strategic aims are representative of, led by, and being delivered in the best interests of our members. Staff are more likely to be in tune with the relevance of our mission to both our members and to the decision makers we’re trying to influence. On a daily basis, I see the wonderful staff at the British Youth Council driving our work to ensure we are on target and rapidly pacing towards our stated mission: “work with others to amplify young people’s voices to create an environment in which young people views are valued, sought and acted upon”. There aren’t many charities with such a small staff team who can empower young members to reach over one million young people and find out their top ten priorities each year – before then ensuring those priorities are delivered by young people to everyone from Number 10 to local councils.
I truly believe that when a charity is small enough that the trustees know multiple members, volunteers and regional leaders by name, and more can call them close friends, it becomes easier to measure if the charity as a whole is actually sticking to our values. Youth led, Collaborative, and Inclusive – the three values every member of our staff team and trustee board is signed up to ensuring the British Youth Council continues to be; I’m confident that if we were to divert from these at any point we would be informed and challenged at the speed of light by our members.
This week has been an opportunity to show how the British Youth Council consistently exceeds even our ambitious targets, something I believe we’ve been a little to hesitant to be proud of doing in the past, but if there’s one thing that has reaffirmed for me it’s this; the British Youth Council is empowering young people to be heard on the issues that matter most to us, and hence change our lives for the better, every single day, with a much smaller resource base then many expect. If that’s not a big impact for a small charity, I don’t know what is.