As the founder of a small charity, having steered this ship for 15 years, I’ve come to know intimately the rough seas of the non-profit world. From the outset, my journey was fuelled by an unwavering passion to make a difference. Yet, what often goes unseen is the myriad of challenges that founders like me face behind the scenes.
I’ve worn countless hats over the years, toggling between roles, from finance manager to fundraiser, from marketer to main contact point. This constant switch is more than just a job requirement; it’s a survival tactic when resources are scarce. However, this juggling act comes at a cost — the ever-looming threat of burnout and its shadow over my personal life.
Operational challenges are a daily reality. The lack of staff means that critical tasks often get delayed or executed under immense pressure, affecting the very people we aim to serve. The irony doesn’t escape me: a charity that exists to support the community can sometimes struggle to support itself.
Then there’s the funding paradox — the need to expand our team to grow but being strapped for the funds to do so. This catch-22 has limited our ability to demonstrate our full potential to funders and often means missing out on opportunities that could catapult our impact to new heights.
Our reliance on volunteers has been both a blessing and a vulnerability. While their contributions are invaluable, the inconsistent nature of voluntary support means stability is a dream that’s always just out of reach.
The personal impact is perhaps the most profound. The lines between my work and personal life have blurred, and the charity’s reliance on my constant presence is a weighty concern. It’s a shared story among founders, where the charity’s health is inextricably linked to our own.
Looking forward, I see a horizon where sustainability is key. Collaborating with other organizations, diversifying funding sources, and investing in our volunteers as key team members are strategies I’m actively pursuing. These are not just growth tactics; they are lifelines.
Succession planning has become a priority. The future of our charity should not rest on any single individual’s shoulders. Developing leadership from within ensures that our mission outlives any one person and that our work continues unabated.
Advocacy is also part of our evolution. The voices of small charities need amplification. We contribute significantly to the fabric of society and deserve a seat at the table in policy discussions and a fair share of the public’s mindspace.
Reflecting on these 15 years, my resolve remains firm. The work we do is too important, the need too great, and the potential for change too vast to be deterred by these hurdles. We need a collective effort to support small charities, recognizing that our success is a success for the community as a whole. This is my call to action, born from years of struggle and triumph, for a future where small charities thrive, not just survive.