Does size matter?

This is a question our board has grappled with many times over our six years of operation. Even if we were impacting just one young life, surely it would be worth it. Right?

The answer has to me three parts. The first is simple: why stop with a few, when we could impact so many? If we exist to make a difference, we may as well make a big one!

The second aspect is one of economy.

I believe there’s an expectation on charities, year on year, to ‘save more animals’, ‘build more shelters’ or in our case, deliver more programs. Because if that doesn’t happen, the ship may as well be sinking! Of course, I am dramatising, but not that much. We live in an economy where status quo does not exist: businesses grow or shrink. Stagnation is only hypothetical. Plus, there is in fact, an economical need to grow as economies of scale can only be reached when said ‘scale’ is achieved.

The last but perhaps most revealing argument in favour of size was highlighted in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission’s latest Australian Charities Report, an analysis of the Australian charitable landscape.

A colleague in the sector pointed to some eye-opening stats from the report: Australia has 57,500 charities, but more than a third of all the revenue they generate goes to the 50 biggest, and 14 percent goes to the top 10.

This highlights a very real challenge 81 percent of charities need to navigate.

In our experience, many foundations only partner with charities that have a national footprint (or dedicate a larger portion of their donation to national charities vs local ones). As such, charities often need to be 'bigger' in order to be significant to funders (and government… the bigger the portion of the pie, the bigger the influence!).

But here’s the conundrum: we need scale to get funding, but we need the funding to get scale. Quite a challenging cycle to break out of for the 46,500 plus Australian charities classified as small or medium...

So does size matter? Perhaps not to every purpose-driven organisation but to us, it does. We’re putting significant effort into establishing a model that can see us expand beyond our region and state borders. To get there, we must think inside and outside the box. I’ll touch on these concepts and how we are attempting this in my next post.

Kim Larochelle

Kim joined The Helmsman Project as a volunteer when it first started delivering programs in 2013. In January 2014, she became one of the organisation's first two employees. She has since had the privilege, along with the team, to witness and support The Helmsman Project's growth.

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