Small Charities Week may only be one week, but if Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that small charities play a fundamental, and often undervalued, role in our society fifty-two weeks of the year. The aim of small charity week is to raise the profile, reach and awareness of organisations that perhaps don’t have the recognition of larger counterparts, but in my experience, often have a greater impact on the young people who need them most. With that, I wanted to focus this blog on a couple of small charities I know of, who could do with our support both now, and crucially, in the long term.
Kids of Colour are a pioneering small charity providing a platform for young people of colour to explore race, identity and culture and challenge the everyday, institutionalised racism that shapes their lives. In particular, their YouTube channel is a brilliant platform full of informative and moving stories from the kids themselves about their experiences.
The Damilola Taylor Trust is committed to providing inner-city youths with opportunities to play, learn and live their lives free of fear and violence, and with optimism for a future where opportunities flourish. Small charities like the Damilola Taylor Trust are more vital than ever. At a time when almost every single aspect of children’s lives have been turned upside down, we can’t continue to underinvest in their futures and risk an increase in crime affecting young people. I think we could all agree that everyone, regardless of age, could do with a bit of hope for young people right now.
And last, but definitely not least, the British Youth Council! I spoke last year about how many people are often surprised to find out that the British Youth Council is a small charity. I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for our wonderful staff team and trustees in making sure that young people’s voices are being meaningfully heard on the issues that matter to them, even throughout a global pandemic. A brilliant example; half way through writing this blog, the Bank of England shared a video of our Youth Forum members giving the feedback of over 900 young people’s Covid-19 related concerns directly to the Chief Economist. It would be so easy for institutions like the Bank of England to say that there is simply too much on for them at this time, and that a youth forum unfortunately is not a priority. Small charities like the British Youth Council making partnerships like this, will have a significant and positive impact on young people’s futures.
It is through ambitious, game-changing, and youth-led projects, like the ones mentioned above, that small charities like the British Youth Council are going to be so important over the next few months as we define our new normal. In the face of Covid-19, it’s been small charities who have excelled and shown what many of us already knew; it is often smaller charities who hold the fabric of our local communities and young people’s lives together. What we need is for society to champion our work and support us in any way possible.
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.