The Value of Small in a Big Crisis

'The Value of Small in a Big Crisis: the distinctive contribution, value and experience of smaller charities in England and Wales during the COVID 19 pandemic' follows on from our 2018 research, The Value of Small and to test the original findings against the pandemic. 

Click the image to download and read the executive summary. You can find the full report and the 2 minute read here


Three years on from the publication of the landmark independent ‘The Value of Small’ study, researchers from Sheffield Hallam, the Open University, IVAR and the University of Wolverhampton revisited the four case study areas during the COVID 19 pandemic.


The 2018 study found that small and medium-sized charities – those with an annual income between £10,000 and £1 million - were a vital and distinctive component of the social and economic fabric of communities across England and Wales.

As opposed to a public body or larger organisation, I do feel that a smaller organisation, third sector particularly so, can be quite responsive…they may be on the ground, more local level and can identify more quickly to a changing need.

Public sector stakeholder in Wrexham


This new research, commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, tests and expands the findings of the original study in the context of the pandemic. It shows that small and local charities’ distinctiveness in who they support, how they carry out their work, and the role they play in their communities makes them best placed to respond to this crisis. They reach and support disadvantaged people and communities that tend to be less well served by mainstream provision.


They 'showed up' and then 'stuck around' using their position of trust within communities experiencing complex social issues to support people when they were needed the most. This contrasts with parts of the public sector, which were slower to react early on, and informal support and mutual aid, which dissipated over time. Smaller charities addressed four main areas of need: access to food, isolation and loneliness, information, and mental health/wellbeing.


Locally rooted small charities found multiple ways to maintain human contact using the trusted relationships they already had to disseminate help and information. This was particularly critical for disadvantaged neighbourhoods, communities of faith or ethnicity, people experiencing poor mental health and people seeking asylum as their needs were less well served by mainstream provision and to whom official public health messages were not getting through, even though they were more likely to be adversely affected by impacts of COVID-19.


These charities have created social, economic and added value for their communities. They stopped lives from getting worse and prevented more people from contracting COVID-19, ultimately reducing demand on the health system at very minimal additional cost to the public purse. In the face of a severe recession, by continuing to employ local people, utilising local supply chains, and accessing pots of funding that could not have been brought into local areas by other types of providers, small charities have also added value to local economies.


They demonstrated “absorptive capacity” by ‘soaking-up’ the unprecedented impact of the crisis on their work, operations and the individuals and communities they support; and then showing tremendous “adaptive capacity” by responding rapidly and flexibly through adjustments and innovations on an ongoing basis.


Small and local charities will be central to rebuilding after the pandemic, contributing to the transformational change needed for society and the economy to fully recover and prosper. The report calls on the government, funders and the wider voluntary sector to recognise the value of small charities - providing long term, flexible, core funding and investing in social and community infrastructure.


At the start of the pandemic, we mobilised to tackle misinformation about the virus that was partially driven by public health messages that weren’t reaching our community. Many were also going without food while others could not access medication. Without our services, the lives of some of our community members would have been at risk. Over 100 users and their families would have found themselves sleeping rough and, on the streets, if GOS&D had not intervened. We also used our longstanding relationships with the local council and NHS services to ensure that those with mental ill health were referred to relevant services.

GOS&D, a charity in West London

Full report

Click on image to download the full report

2 minute read

Click on image to download the two page conclusion

The way that the three (smaller charities/social enterprises) responded to that was phenomenal. They’ve been absolutely brilliant. So, (they) came together very very quickly to pull together an offer for people who were not known to the mental health trust and who needed that mental health support. And we wouldn’t have been able to mobilise something that quickly with a statutory organisation. The flexibility they had to deliver something in a very different way, in a COVID way. But the way in which they responded to do that in such a short space of time, and with the link that they have in the reach that they have into wider (voluntary sector) partners was really well valued… and I suppose the organisations that were involved were anchor organisations... So, that they had that wider sense of what else was out there and what people could be supported to access. That was really beneficial in terms of getting people to the right support as well as offering some kind of short, time-limited interventions for people as well.

NHS Commissioner, Salford

Watch The Value of Small in a Big Crisis webinar

On Tuesday 23 March, we were joined by Baroness Diana Barran and the Value of Small research team to discuss the research findings from the new report. Watch in full.


Download the presentation slides from the webinar

I was live at the Value of small in a Big Crisis webinar and it was so good to hear all the speakers talk about the reality of what we are experiencing on the ground. Lloyds Bank Foundation really understands the critical role of small charities in dealing with the complex issues that people face and the challenges we face. The report is so accurate that it felt as if the researchers spoke with our organisation during their research.

I honestly cannot be grateful enough to you and the Lloyds Bank Foundation. The strategy used by the foundation to provide support to small charities like ours is excellent and invaluable.

Catherine Sama, Chief Officer of Kingsmeadow @MadeForever

Championing Small Charities

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