It isn’t surprising, therefore, that small charities have popped up all over the country with the tenacity of a garden weed. Of course, rather than being a scourge on our landscape, they are often the very fabric that hold our communities together and have affected individual lives profoundly. The UK’s Small Charity Week, is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges these small charities face and to ask ourselves how they ensure their work is recognised and understood.
The Misión México UK team, headed up by Deborah Grossman, supported by five Trustees, and a trusted team of volunteers, set up Misión México UK in 2012 to raise awareness of the refuge in Tapachula and support the programmes run for the children; namely the Education Programme, Surf Programme, Working Training Programme and Youth Transition Programme. Here are some of the things we have learned so far.
Don’t try to compete with the ‘big boys’
Misión México is different to the bigger charities who support children. We stand for the same issues (education, empowering young girls and women, reducing poverty, supporting the recovery of children who have suffered physical and emotional abuse), but the Misión México vision and our purpose is unique to us. Furthermore, we simply do not have the same resources as the bigger organisations. We therefore, do not try to compete with larger charities for attention or space. We tailor our fundraising activities to our vision and the resources at our disposal. We share the Misión Mexico story amongst and through our colleagues, friends and family. We ask them to tell our story.new balance toddler
Investing in volunteers
Misión México, like many small charities, would simply not exist without the time, expertise and support given to us by our volunteers. Whether this be helping us to run the Misión México website, holding fundraising events, taking photos and making videos for us, or whether it be going to Mexico to teach music, to help the children with homework, to spend time surfing, we rely on people giving us their time. We are constantly trying to improve our mechanisms for recruiting volunteers and ensuring that we are investing in them and supporting them in their own development when we can. We truly believe that you should invest in your volunteers.
Making your story relevant
Misión México faces a big challenge of making our story relevant in the UK. We are small, and the reason we exist is to support children in Mexico. Making our story relevant to people here has been a challenge. However, some things in life cross boundaries. The suffering of children is one of these. No matter who you are or where you live, we all believe in taking care of children. Therefore by sharing our children’s stories and showing that there are some things all children have in common, we are building trust and gaining traction in the UK.
Learning from, and sharing with, small charities
We have learned a great deal from other incredible charities such as New Life Mexico and International Refugee Trust who have a similar set up to ourselves. We would like to collaborate more with other small charities to network, share ideas, and support each other. Often small charities perceive themselves as being in competition with each other for people’s attention, time, and money but we believe that more can be gained through sharing learning and resources and through collaboration. We have found the networking opportunities afforded to us by Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS), the Institute of Funding and the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) very useful.
Understanding your impact
Understanding the difference you are making is vital for small charities and yet is notoriously difficult. Often collecting robust statistical data is just not possible and so we are often left wondering what impact our work is having. We at Misión México are very lucky to be able to see the effect our work is having on the children we support every day. For us, the most effective means of showing those who support us just what their time and money is contributing towards, is by telling stories. We ask the children at the refuge what their life is like at the refuge, how things have changed, what their dreams are, what their passions are. This allows our audience to build a type of relationship with them and thus see what a difference we are making. Our children are writing their own blog posts now and sharing their lives with us on Facebook.
While the past two years has been full of challenges and we are very proud of how much we have learned so far. It is our hope that we will be able to continue to learn from and work alongside other small charities to ensure we are can continue to help the most vulnerable in our society.