Small is Beautiful

The Hibiscus Senior Citizens Club

Small voluntary sector organisations play an important role for London’s residents.  Working
at a ‘hyper local’ level, often run by volunteers and with very little public funding they are a
lifeline to communities that public bodies see as ‘hard to reach’ and are able to achieve a
significant impact for the individuals they support.  However, evidencing their impact for
commissioners and potential funders can be problematic for these small groups.

Capacity and time are issues for organisations run by volunteers and implementing evaluation
programmes based on outcomes is harder to implement than delivering an individual case
studies, which do not carry the same weight as a quantitative based framework.  Public sector
commissioning favours larger organisations with the capacity to deliver to higher numbers
and over an extended geographical reach.  Many of the smaller, local organisations do not
want to ‘scale up’- a process which would enable them to take part in these commissioning;
smaller organisations often work effectively because they are small and have an intimate
knowledge and understanding of their community’s strengths and needs

The capacity development function of the local CVS is key to supporting these small groups,
as local knowledge is vital in ensuring the group is given the right level and type of support.
CVS Brent recognises the importance of small organisations in their borough and their work
with the Hibiscus Senior Citizens Club is an example of how a small group can be supported
to remain a key part of their community, supporting residents who would not be interested
in joining a larger group where there is not the same level of local support and

The Hibiscus Senior Citizens Club is a lunch and social club and has been meeting weekly on
a Monday, for over 20 years.  The average number of people attending is between 15-20
each week. The club is rooted in the local African Caribbean community, working to nurture
social connections and wellbeing.

The Hibiscus Senior Citizens Club initially contacted CVS Brent for support on creating
policies and procedures for the organisation.  Younger family members had started taking
on the running of the club on a voluntary basis and are committed to keeping the club small
and volunteer-led, but they needed to source funding to continue the club’s regular
activities.  the group sought help to ensure that it had the appropriate governance
structures and policies in place so they could access community funding and with support
from CVS Brent, the organisation was able to put these systems in place and was successful
in bidding for local funding from Awards for All (£10000) and Wembley national stadium
trust (£250).

Anju Bhatt, CEO of CVS Brent

‘It is important to listen to the group and volunteers – and appreciate that the size of the
organisation, is key to its success and impact.  Often groups are encouraged to expand and
grow, and this isn’t always in their interests or those of their client group.  As a CVS we see
that the impact of these small groups can be overlooked by commissioners and funders, and we believe that there needs to be more recognition of the importance of these small local groups and their contribution to improving the quality of life of Brent’s diverse communities.’

London Plus facilitates the CVS directors network, which you can read about in our blog.