Voluntary Sector: Call for pro-bono support

As Small Charity Week concludes, Forster boss encourages agencies to offer help.

The agency world has been called on to provide pro-bono work to help small charities struggling in the wake of the economic downturn.

This week's inaugural Small Charity Week in Britain sees small charities such as animal protection charity Advocates for Animals struggling to be heard with very limited resources.

Small Charity Week is promoted by the Foundation for Social Improvement.

Social change agency Forster's director Peter Gilheany said: 'We'd like the comms industry to respond to Small Charity Week. All comms agencies should be offering their services.

'Small charities are in a really difficult bind following the change of administration, which has meant the past few years were a time of plenty for them. They are volunteer-led, with hardly any money. They need something to help them punch above their weight.'

Gilheany added that charities needed to use the stories of the people they help, which is their best resource. 'One incredible story is worth an amazing amount when it comes to raising profile,' he said. He warned smaller charities of the risks of becoming involved in high-profile news stories, citing Christine Pratt, founder of the National Bullying Hotline, who claimed the charity had received calls from staff in Gordon Brown's office.

Simon Middleton, who has advised charities such as St John Ambulance, The Anthony Nolan Trust and Comic Relief on branding, said charities had the potential to forge a bigger role in the current climate.

Middleton, author of the book Build a Brand in 30 Days, said: 'Small charities need to get across key elements to build their brand: be authentic, be distinctive and be compelling. You need to make an emotional engagement. Where a lot of charities fall down is they're very authentic, but they have a tendency to sound like every other charity. Or they think the only emotion is a sob story. There are other emotions.'

Small Charity Week opened with a campaigning day that took the small charity message to the streets of London on Monday. It continued with a policy day, fundraising day and car draw day, culminating in a day of celebration today (Friday).

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