Voluntary sector infrastructure providers have failed to meet the needs of small organisations, according to an article in the latest edition of the academic journal Voluntary Sector Review.
Kim Donahue, a consultant who has worked with more than 200 voluntary organisations in the UK, says in the article that many capacity-building organisations themselves lacked the capacity to meet the needs of small organisations.
Donahue writes that support bodies "simply do not have the capacity to provide the amount, range or level of support that is needed".
They were also guilty of trying to professionalise and grow organisations that did not always want to go down these routes, she says.
"Commissioning and contracts force organisations into more bureaucratic approaches," says Donahue.
"This approach is often taken for granted by staff, funders and policymakers as the natural way forward for organisations, while anything other than growing bigger via paid staff looks like failure in a climate where ‘more is better’."
She says the quality of some advice and training is good, but most "micro-organisations", which she defined as those with no more than one full-time paid equivalent member of staff, needed specific help rather than generic support.
"Current arrangements for infrastructure support largely fail to meet the needs of micro organisations," Donahue concludes.
She calls for the creation of more informal networks between infrastructure bodies and small organisations and new initiatives, such as swapping trustees, to increase skills.
Donahue told Third Sector her article was not aimed at any specific infrastructure body but at the general approach to capacity building at national, regional and sub-regional levels.