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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Why support for rural community organisations has never been more needed

This opinion piece is almost 2 years old

Lucy Conway, reflects on some of the unique challenges facing Scotland’s rural community organisations and the fundraising support being offered by Inspiring Scotland to help strengthen these vital groups

Rural communities are incredibly diverse; no two rural communities are exactly the same and third sector organisations often play a pivotal role in supporting the unique set of needs of their local community.  However, running a community organisation in a rural and remote area can often bring its own set of challenges ranging from a lack of time to the more serious lack of funding.

Through our work as fund managers of the Scottish Government’s Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund we have been working, listening and supporting small rural community organisations and have heard first-hand about some of the issues they face.

One main challenge is governance and staffing – many community organisations are led by volunteers or have very few staff, and may struggle to have the time, knowledge and expertise to run their organisations. Recruiting staff in remote rural areas with small populations can be tough: specialist expertise may not always be available, and a lack of available and affordable housing in rural and island areas may prevent people from being able to move for a new role.

Small community organisations are often so busy helping the local community meaning there is little time left to plan ahead – strategy, evaluation, or funding plans can often be put off. However, having a simple strategic plan and designing evaluation early can often help these organisations make much better funding applications, saving time and energy.

Lastly, rural community organisations are often working with small numbers of people, meaning their potential to earn income locally is smaller than more populated places, and funders’ money doesn’t go as far: their ‘cost per person’ is typically higher than urban areas. With many funders looking for lower funding intervention rates and encouraging community organisations to generate more income themselves, the financial and operational pressures intensify. 

These collective challenges can often mean it is hard work for rural community organisations to stay afloat and fundraising can feel like it’s never off the to-do list of managing volunteers, boards, and staff and projects.

To help, Inspiring Scotland’s rural team is providing individual support and online resources for rural communities. We can provide help or advice on a particular project, or on how to approach fundraising for community priorities in a more productive and ultimately successful way. This can help community organisations prepare in advance for future funding, before it’s announced by central government, trusts & foundations or other funders:

Lucy Conway is island communities fund manager at Inspiring Scotland.