Funders should consider awarding small charities grants to bring in consultants to help them identify what they should focus on, according to a report published today by the Charities Aid Foundation.
How Funders Can Do More to Support the Resilience of Small Charities contains the preliminary findings of CAF Resilience, a £1m pilot programme to find ways to help small service-providing charities survive and become more effective.
Under the two-year programme, which is funded by private philanthropists, 10 small to medium-sized UK charities have been awarded grants to test ways to become more resilient.
The report contains the lessons learned so far by five charities: Home-Start Lincolnshire, the Encephalitis Society, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, ACE (Action in Caerau & Ely), and the Hot Chocolate Trust.
The report recommends bringing in external experts to help charities be clear about what they exist to do and how a grant can maximise the impact of their work.
According to the report, the strategic thinking of too many small charities is based on their existing funding and programmes rather than on their missions and how best to deliver them.
And because most staff are busy delivering services, external experts such as consultants can ask the key questions that enable charities to survive and help more people.
"Time and space to address fundamental resilience challenges causes charities to recognise their own assumptions and reflect on what they do, and the why and how, in a way that they may never have done before," the report says.
It adds some charities, such as Home-Start Lincolnshire, concluded that delivering their missions meant doing less rather than more and heightening their focus on quality.
The other recommendations include urging funders to build long-term relationships with small charities that accept change can be slow and creating an "atmosphere of honesty" between charities and funders that allows organisations to admit when something doesn't work.
"We see the programme as the starting point for a wider campaign, one that creates an environment in which smaller charities know what they need to become more resilient," said Beth Clarke, the programme manager.
"We hope that charities will feel emboldened to convey these needs with clarity and urgency to the wide array of funders who assist their vital work."