Funding story: The question of size

The size of a charity can be either a prerequisite or a barrier to its hopes of securing grants from funding bodies.

Whenever a really well-off organisation gets a new grant, there's a distinct feeling among smaller charities of "to them that have shall be given". The big beasts of the third sector have big fundraising departments, with people who specialise in all the different ways to lever in cash; small organisations are often lucky if there's one person dedicated to raising funds.

As a result, it's hardly surprising that a lot of funders put some kind of cap on the size of charity they're prepared to fund. Esmee Fairbairn, for instance, is one of the bigger national grant-makers and doesn't tend to give to what it calls "large national charities that enjoy widespread support". At the same time, of course, those larger national organisations do have very wide remits, providing services (and employment) for comparatively large numbers of people.

So does size actually become a problem? According to Tim Hunter, deputy director of fundraising at the NSPCC, it certainly does. "The criterion 'we won't support charities over a certain size' is probably the single biggest barrier we face," he says, swiftly adding: "I wouldn't like to give the impression we're unsuccessful." The NSPCC's success includes £386,000 from Comic Relief towards a new child trafficking advice and information line.

For that particular project, being a major player is a real advantage, according to Judith McNeill, grants director at Comic Relief. "This line involves risk and innovation; it's incredibly complex, it has a range of different stakeholders and it needs high-level infrastructure and support," she says. "It takes a well- networked, very well-established national organisation to roll out something like this effectively, take it to the national scale and secure future funding."

More widely, McNeill outlines some of the considerations she and her colleagues take into account when thinking about bigger organisations. "We make no particular rule about size, but do take very seriously the issue of larger charities' reserves, and also their ability to fundraise," she says. "When you're a household name, that's a huge advantage. We also look at the core costs that the larger charities build into their applications, and we may be more stringent about these than we would be with a smaller organisation that is absolutely dependent on our funding."

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