Is PR the luxury of large charities?  

In a week that celebrates the UK’s plethora of small charities, how can they stand out from the crowd using PR, and do they even have time? 

27 June 2024 | 4 min read | ESG
Lucie Willis
Lucie Willis
white woman with short hair in pink dress at the front of an audience, pointing to a screen that says the word 'communication' in orange text.

In case you didn’t already know, this week is Small Charity Week. It’s an annual opportunity for small charities to make new connections, access practical support and amplify their voice.  

Why is this important?

Because most of our thousands upon thousands of charities in the UK are ‘small’. They operate on a shoestring and yet support swathes of the population in a myriad of ways, providing vital services often where official channels don’t have the capacity or budget to reach. 

According to Small Charities Data, there are around 166,000 voluntary organisations in the UK, of which 96% are small charities. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) also states that most of their members have an income of less than £30,000. 

What bearing does this have on PR?  

Small charities outnumber large, and they have endless stories to tell that we need to hear. And PR can be part of the solution to push up those ‘less than £30,000’ income levels by reaching investors to encourage them to commit more funds; to reach a wider portion of their beneficiaries so they are aware of and can access their crucial services; and to push the agenda on the pressing issues that they are dealing with in their communities. 

The other bearing this has on PR is that, as part of Small Charity Week, Clearly PR (and specifically our founder Paul MacKenzie-Cummins and me), were kindly invited by 3SG, an independent charity membership network in Bath and North East Somerset, to run a ‘lunch & learn’ session on ‘Effective PR for small charities’.

It was a whistlestop run through of what PR is, what makes a great story, how to go about planning and delivering a PR strategy along with a handful of real-world examples and some (hopefully) helpful tips and PR hacks.  

Naturally, the preparation for this made us reflect on the challenges that small charities face every day. Being a small charity means a limited number of people, time and money, and yet a huge responsibility to the people or causes that rely on them. In PR terms, it means there is no budget, which begs the question: Is PR a luxury for larger charities with bigger budgets? It certainly is not. 

Size really doesn’t matter

With a clear plan of what a charity wants to achieve from PR (raise awareness, change attitudes, raise funds etc), who their target audience is and where they hang out, and what their key messages are, there is no reason that a small charity cannot earn themselves countless column inches and airtime. 

You may be interested in the PR campaign we ran for this newly-formed charity in 2023:

If the world was fair, they shouldn’t have to dedicate any time to PR, the journalists should be coming to them, but we can forgive them for being penned in by politicians waving at them from shaky soap boxes. With so many charities, it is also hard to stand out and be heard, which is where – again – PR plays its role. 

I won’t repeat the full session here, but if you’re a small charity and a member of 3SG, you can access the recording from them. Some key points that feedback suggests were particularly useful include: 

  • Statistics can tell great stories – what numbers do you have access to, or could you generate (perhaps through a survey)? 
  • What milestones is your charity approaching? 
  • What trending topics should you be speaking up on? 
  • When writing your story, start and end with ‘why’ to make sure you’re telling the right story 
  • Case studies can make all the difference to securing coverage 
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of timing – will something stop my news getting published if we share it now?  
  • Don’t fear AI, explore how it can help you. 

If you attended our session, we are very grateful and hope you found it useful, and to all small charities – Happy Small Charity Week! 

Clearly has support charities both large and small, old and new, to get their causes and messages known to more of the people they need to engage and gain support from.

Here’s one such campaign we ran in 2023 for a newly launched suicide awareness charity, The Baton of Hope. Click here.

Get in touch today if you need help to develop or deliver a PR campaign that supports for charity’s key objectives.