You probably get a lot of requests for donations to various charities in the mail, on social media, when you walk down the street, and at the grocery store checkout. With all of these competing asks, it is easy to imagine that you have a good idea of the charitable landscape in your area. However, there are probably a number of small charities that you have never heard of providing essential services in your community right now. Small charities actually make up most of the nonprofit organizations in the U.S., but they generally lack the funds to conduct eye-catching fundraising campaigns. Small charities are often doing the most critical frontline work in communities. They also often struggle to keep their doors open and reliably serve their communities. You can seek out small organizations to help close this gap and increase your donations’ impact.
Small Charities are Close to the Problems and the Solutions
Small charities are often created and operated in communities to address the problems that the people who live there experience. The lived experience of the leadership and staff members of small charities helps shape their work. For organizations providing direct services, this means custom-tailored solutions that meet the physical and cultural needs of the local population. American communities vary widely, and one-size-fits-all solutions rarely fit. Knowing the local landscape can help small charities develop custom solutions with an outsized impact.
When we talk about small charities, we have to talk about racial inequality in the U.S. It is no coincidence that organizations led by people of color receive less funding than their white-led counterparts, and what they get often has more strings attached. Even as people of color work to address the injustices against their communities, they are hindered by those very inequities. People of color leading charities are working to address some of our nation's biggest challenges, often ones they have personally dealt with. They are intimately familiar with the problems their communities face and the resources those communities have to address them.
Small Charities are Getting Less Support
Equipped with relevant local knowledge, small charities are taking action to great effect. And yet, donors are not stepping up to fund this work. Small charities usually don’t have money to spend on extensive fundraising campaigns. Small organizations may struggle to keep staff on the payroll and provide their services consistently as funding comes and goes. If the funding these charities receive is restricted, they may be unable to afford essentials. It is impossible to think about expanding service areas or creating new programs when charities aren’t sure what their financials will look like next quarter.
Small charities may rely on a small, local network of supporters who see the value of their work. Donors who want to fill the funding gap for small organizations should seek out these charities intentionally.
What Donors Can Do to Help Smaller, Underfunded Charities
Donors have the opportunity to maximize their impact by believing in the immense potential of small charities. It isn’t hard to shift your support:
Find Small Organizations
Small charities won’t necessarily have the resources to find you. You need to be proactive in your effort to support small nonprofits. Charity Navigator’s advanced search allows users to sort by budget size and factors like issue area and location. This is a quick and easy way to find and vet organizations in your area addressing the issues you care about.
Provide Sustained, Unrestricted Funding
Once you have found an organization or organizations to support, give them what they need to thrive. Unrestricted funding allows charities to decide how to use funds. This flexibility enables charities, who are in the best position to know how money should be spent, to distribute funds as they see fit. If you are financially able to set up a recurring donation, gifts automatically paid out of your account at regular intervals, we recommend it. Recurring donations provide charities with reliable income that provides stability and allows them to plan for the future. You can often set up a recurring donation through a charity directly or use The Giving Basket to set up and manage recurring donations to multiple charities in one place.
Small charities across the U.S. are doing fantastic work. They see the problems and solutions in their communities because they grow out of and are embedded in those communities. Small charities have endless potential, but most are working on shoestring budgets that prevent them from achieving their full potential. Your support can help them survive and thrive to better serve their communities.