Age Concern North Dorset (ACND) is one of these small independent charities but there are many other small charities all struggling for survival. Most of these charities cannot afford paid staff, the day-to-day work is carried out by dedicated, mainly elderly, volunteers who work tirelessly because they are needed and they want to ensure the charity keeps going. These charities may not be able to offer a service every day but they do all they can to serve their community to the best of their ability.
At ACND we are luck enough to now have two part-time members of staff, not because we can afford them, we fundraise to help pay for them, but because we believe we could not be the charity we are without at least one member of staff to cover all the administration – and if you are a well-run charity believe me there is a huge amount of administration to be done. We have one member of staff who is paid to ensure the office stays open 3 days a week and she is also responsible for our Telephone Support Service, Foot Clinic and supports all our other services and much more. This means we can offer a regular, dedicated and consistent service to our community. We support approximately 40 people a month with our various services. Our second member of staff is new this year and only works six hours a week but helps to promote the charity and identify other possible needs in the area which the trustees do not have the time to do.
Our clients are some the most vulnerable of today’s society, the elderly, infirm and disabled and, with services for the elderly generally shrinking because of lack of funding, ACND really must survive as the numbers in need of support are growing year on year and the support on offer to aid these people is unfortunately diminishing.
I am privileged to have been Chairman for Age Concern North Dorset for the last six years, in that time the three trustees in charge of the charity have worked tirelessly to improve the charity’s governance and core funding as well as expanding and improving the services we offer. Most of the services we offer are free and we are not wealthy or large enough to own shops to contribute to our funding, so we do depend on funding organisations, donations and fundraising events to survive.
Fundraising is the most time-consuming, frustrating and emotionally draining exercise any charity faces. Additionally, if you take into account practically every charity will also be chasing the same diminishing funds - you can imagine what a small charity is up against. You also have to take into account that most funders want to support projects and not necessarily core funding. From the charities point of view if your funding is to ensure the charity survives and you have little support, the last thing on your mind is investing in projects. Most funders these days seem to expect charities to spend all the money raised but under these circumstances how can a small charity grow and develop with no money in the bank.
My advice to all readers is - if you have a small charity which is providing you with invaluable support and you want it to continue, please think about supporting it on a regular basis with some funding. It may mean they will be able to continue to support your needs into the future. If not, I predict most of the small independent, but local and really important charities, will be gone. Out of the 150+ small Age Concerns that stayed independent after the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged in 2009 over half have closed their doors during COVID -(quote from Age England in October 2023)
Chairman, Age Concern North Dorset, Sturminster Newton