Help with the cost of living crisis: for small community groups and charities

From: BCM

Calculator and pen with upward arrow to indicate rising costs

The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone. Birmingham’s small community/voluntary groups and charities are feeling it. So are the people we collectively support.

Charity Excellence Framework has launched a #SurviveAndThrive programme of resources for UK charities, community groups and individuals. See also the Charity Resource Hub from CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) and BVSC’s Cost of Living Toolkit.

Here are further cost of living resources that may help:

Managing budgets and costs within your charity or group

BCM can help with reviewing your budget and costs associated with running your small Birmingham-based community organisation. See whether there’s a BCM event coming up that suits you. We’d love you to call in and chat to our BCM helpers.

NCVO (the National Council for Voluntary Organisations) has a Cost of Giving Crisis campaign. It offers resources, guidance, a helpdesk, webinars and training courses to ensure you get the support you need to keep going.

The government’s Charity Commission has published guidance. ‘Manage financial difficulties in your charity arising from cost of living pressures.’

We like this blog post from NPC (New Philanthropy Capital). ‘How to talk to funders about the cost of living crisis’.

You can watch a recorded webinar from NCVO and the Association of Charitable Foundations. It’s called ‘Working effectively with funders during the cost of living crisis.

Charity Digital has a guide for charities on how to buy cheap software. Recognising that small charities also have less to spend on resources, it has compiled this useful article: ‘Five cheap digital tools you need right now’. We use three of them here at BCM: Asana, Canva and Zoom!

Reducing or managing energy costs within your charity or group

It’s worth checking out the government-backed VCSE Energy Efficiency Scheme, offering ways to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in England improve their energy efficiency. Eligible organisations can apply for the cost and delivery of an independent energy assessment. Organisations with an energy assessment may then be eligible to apply for a capital grant to support the cost of installing recommended energy-efficiency measures in their premises.

Charity Excellence Framework has created this Energy Saver Toolkit. It has more than 30 energy-saving ideas, efficiency schemes and grants for charities and individuals.

Alongside Utility Aid, NCVO and SCVO held a webinar for our sector. You can watch the recording of ‘How to manage rising energy costs’.

Accessing cost of living crisis funding for your charity or group

The free searchable Funding Finder grants database from Charity Excellence Framework now has a category for crisis grants.

If the work of your group is impacted by supporting people affected by the cost of living crisis, you may be able to apply for Crowdfunder’s Extra+ funding.

Aviva Community Fund has added a ‘Cost of Living Boost’ for causes that need it most.

Supporting colleagues and staff in your small charity or group

You can watch NCVO’s recorded webinar: ‘How to support and retain your staff through the cost of living crisis’. NCVO has other recorded webinars relating to the

Locality has a ‘Checklist for employers’ to help community organisations support their staff and tackle HR issues relating to the cost of living crisis.

Benefact Group held a webinar exploring what myths, truths and perceptions are informing the charity sector today, and how fundraisers and leaders can minimise the ‘cost of giving’ crisis. You can watch the recording of ‘Cost of Living: Help and Hope’.

Joining the Birmingham Warm Welcome movement

The Warm Welcome Campaign supports organisations to open their doors to people struggling to heat their homes.

Here’s a list of Birmingham’s Warm Welcome Spaces.

If you’d like your organisation’s space or activities to become a part of the Birmingham Warm Welcome movement, here’s the Birmingham Warm Welcome form. If you have multiple venues to offer to Birmingham Warm Welcome, use this form. To share a leaflet explaining your Birmingham Warm Welcome offer, use the email address

You may be able to access a grant to support your Warm Welcome Space.

CILIP is the library and information association. It has published the guide ‘A warm welcome: Setting up a warm space in your community’ with an introduction by Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

Working together in our community sector

In November 2022, BVSC organised a a Cost of Living event for Birmingham’s voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector. Our Chief Executive Jo Burrill was among the 140+ people who attended. At the BVSC website you can view the resources and toolkit that emerged from this Cost of Living event.

Keep sight of the valuable work you’re doing. Community organisations play a vital role in supporting people in crisis. LSE (the London School of Economics) has published a paper entitled ‘Community responses to the cost-of-living crisis’ [PDF opens in a new window] which explains this in detail.

Supporting people who come to our groups – general help

Birmingham City Council outlines its ‘Help in Brum’ cost of living support for individuals and families across the city, including details of food banks, help with energy bills, and ways to manage debt. Much of this information is published in the council’s Cost of Living leaflet that you could download and print out. If you are having immediate problems, the council asks that you call 0121 303 1116.

Birmingham City Council’s Household Support Hub Webchat allows you to get cost-of-living advice in real time, online.

See also the Local Welfare Provision Scheme. This helps people who are in a short-term crisis and need essential things. It is grant based and there are two types of help, via a pre-paid card or the giving of white goods and beds.

Meanwhile, the UK government has rounded up its support and that from other organisations, via the Help for Households campaign.

Charity Digital has an article on how to tackle digital exclusion.

If your group is based in Handsworth and you know someone experiencing hardship there, you may be able to refer them to the Handsworth Charity for a small one-off grant.

Supporting people who come to our groups – food

Birmingham Food Justice Network has a map of places across Birmingham where people can access food support or a welcoming place to go.

Eden Project Communities has teamed up with food educator Nureen from Feed Me Good Community. On Facebook, they’re sharing video tips for energy-efficient cooking and budget eating.

Supporting people who come to our groups – energy

Warmer Homes West Midlands offers personalised energy advice to households in the region (including Birmingham) who are struggling to heat their homes. It promises to be an impartial service and free to use.

Supporting people who come to our groups – wellbeing and entertainment

UK charity Listening Books provides an audiobook lending service for people who find it difficult to read or hold a book due to an illness, mental health condition, disability or learning difficulty. Listening Books has over 10,000 professionally recorded audiobooks in its collection for all ages and interests, which listeners can stream and download online, or order through a postal MP3 CD service. The charity currently has funding to give free membership to people in the West Midlands who are eligible for the service but who would find the usual membership fee (£20 – £45 a year) a barrier to joining. Find out more on Listening Books’ membership page.

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