Sponsor’s Foreword

Simon Blake, OBE. Chair, Compact Voice Compact Voice is delighted to sponsor the 2014 edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac. It is essential that this information is widely available; the Almanac gives us a real sense of the breadth of voluntary action in this country, and is an invaluable source of key statistics, trends […]


Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO The 2014 Almanac once again aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the scope and changing nature of civil society. A thriving and diverse civil society is a hallmark of effective democracy – where people can come together around the causes they care about and make a difference. UK […]

Regional profiles

These profiles allow logged in members to explore the voluntary sector in English regions. North East | North West | Yorkshire and the Humber | East Midlands | West Midlands | East of England | London | South East | South West

What is civil society?

Civil society has been defined as the associational life that brings people together and allows civic values and skills to develop. The role of voluntary groups and organisations is central to this associational life, but civil society is about more than this, it is also defined by a set of values – the values associated […]

What is the income of civil society organisations?

Civil society organisations have an annual combined income of £181 billion. Voluntary organisations make up the largest part of civil society in financial terms, accounting for the largest share of income, assets and expenditure. Employee-owned businesses (with an estimated income of £30 billion), universities (£27.9 billion) and co-operatives (£26.4 billion) are the other major sectors […]

What assets do civil society organisations hold?

Civil society organisations control substantial assets with an estimated value of £286 billion. This figure largely consists of fixed assets such as property and investments. It will include some cash deposits, but excludes the assets of financial services industries (e.g. building societies and mutual insurance providers) which mostly comprise customer deposits. Our analysis of civil […]

How many people work in civil society?

Civil society organisations are major employers with an estimated 2.3 million people employed as paid staff. This is equivalent to 8% of the total UK workforce – more than the workforce of the NHS, the UK’s single largest employer (1.7 million people), and more than are employed in the construction industry (2.1 million). Within civil […]

How many people benefit from the work of civil society organisations?

Civil society organisations exist to support a wide range of beneficiary groups, not just UK residents but people across the world, as well as many other causes that might directly or indirectly have an effect on an individual’s life. This makes counting and describing the beneficiaries of civil society challenging. One could argue that the […]

How many volunteers are there?

Volunteers are a vital part of the work of civil society organisations. Find out more about volunteering Many civil society organisations across all sectors rely on the support of volunteers. There is considerable variety in who volunteers and how frequently, their motivation for volunteering, the roles they adopt, and the length of their involvement.

How has the number of civil society organisations changed?

Drawing together data from a variety of sources, we estimate there are around 900,000 civil society organisations in the UK. However, tracking the number of organisations over time is challenging – sources of information vary in quality and accuracy, categories and methodologies used by regulatory bodies are subject to change, and it is difficult to […]

What is the relationship between social enterprise and civil society?

Many of the civil society organisations we have described above identify themselves as social enterprises. A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social or environmental purpose and that reinvests its profits to further its social mission. Social enterprise can also be described as an activity: selling goods or services which also fulfil […]

What is the voluntary sector?

The voluntary sector is at the heart of civil society. Our analysis of the voluntary sector is based on the “general charities” definition. Starting with all registered charities, we exclude those controlled by government, independent schools, religious organisations and some others. Although many of these organisations have paid staff, a defining characteristic is their voluntary […]

Why are our estimates lower than the Charity Commission’s figures?

Compared to the Charity Commission’s register, which covers England and Wales, the Almanac reports more organisations but less income. To produce estimates of the size of the UK voluntary sector, we apply the “general charities” definition to the register of charities and similar registers covering Scotland and Northern Ireland. Developed by the Office for National […]

How many voluntary organisations are active in the UK?

There were over 161,000 active voluntary organisations in the UK in 2011/12. Active organisations are those that have submitted an annual return in the last 3 years. In the UK there are 2.5 voluntary organisations for every thousand people. This is equivalent to one voluntary organisation for every 395 people. This estimate does not include […]

How big is a typical voluntary organisation?

Around 82,000 voluntary organisations have an annual income of less than £10,000, which amounts to just over half (51%) of the sector. We have categorised these organisations as ‘micro’ organisations. A further 53,000 (33%) are categorised as ‘small’ and have an annual income of less than £100,000. These two categories only account for 5.3% of […]

Which are the largest voluntary organisations in the UK?

The sector’s spending power largely resides with large and major voluntary organisations. Over three quarters of total current expenditure (£28.2 billion) is spent by the largest 4,803 organisations (or 3% of organisations). The Wellcome Trust, with an expenditure of £728.1 million, is the largest voluntary organisation by expenditure. SEE LATEST DATA HERE

Are there more voluntary organisations in some parts of the UK than in others?

Voluntary organisations can be assigned to a location based on the address registered with the Charity Commission. This means the activities of national and international organisations are mapped to the Local Authority that contains their headquarters. As the chart below shows, one consequence of this is that the City of London has the highest number […]

What activities does the voluntary sector undertake?

The Almanac puts all of the 161,266 voluntary organisations in the UK in a discrete category based on their principle economic activity, according to the International Classification of Non-Profit Organisations (ICNPO). The largest category is social services, which includes 29,711 organisations with a total income of £9.1billion, and assets of £13.4billion. This sub-sector uses a […]

What is the voluntary sector’s total income and spending?

The total income of voluntary organisations in 2011/12 was £39.2 billion. We estimate £2.4 billion is received as grants from other voluntary organisations, so is arguably double-counting of income. In the same year current expenditure stood at £38.0 billion, 97% of total income. This leaves a difference of £1.2 billion. However, this does not necessarily […]

What is the impact of inflation on the voluntary sector?

Inflation is the general increase in prices over time, which means that every year, £1 of cash is worth less in real terms. For this reason, in order to compare cash financial amounts over time, an adjustment is made to produce a real terms figure. The inflation measure used in the Almanac is RPIX (Retail […]

What is the sector’s contribution to the economy?

The contribution of different sectors is measured using GVA (gross value added) which measures the value of output. NCVO developed a method to estimate the voluntary sector’s GVA in consultation with the ONS in the early 2000s. This method produces a figure for the year 2011/12 of £11.8billion, which is equivalent to almost 0.9% of […]

How has the number of organisations changed?

Since the register of charities was launched in the 1960s, the number of charities has grown steadily, with at least 2,500 organisations registered every year. In 2012, 4,200 new general charities were registered. Both registrations and removals are unrelated to economic conditions: the peaks and troughs shown are the result of administrative action by the […]

How has the sector’s income and spending changed?

After a period of significant growth between 2000/01 and 2007/08, the voluntary sector has seen little change in its income and spending. Both income and spending have grown in cash terms between 2007/08 and 2011/12; income increased from £35.0 billion in 2007/08 to £39.2 billion in 2011/12 (12%), and spending increased from £32.4 billion in […]

What is the sector’s most important source of income?

The voluntary sector receives income from two main sources: individuals and government bodies. Individuals are still the sector’s main source, providing £17.4 billion in 2011/12 (44% of total income) via donations and purchases. Contracts and grants from government bodies, worth £13.7 billion, generate over a third of the sector’s income (35%). Together, statutory bodies and […]

How is the voluntary sector’s income distributed?

Income sources vary by type and by size of organisation. Major organisations receive a larger proportion of their income from government, with 39% of their income coming from this source, compared to 17% for small organisations and 4% for micro organisations. Individuals provide the biggest source of income for every size band of organisation, but […]

How diverse is the voluntary sector’s income?

While the previous question shows the average distribution of resources by size and type of organisation, the income sources of individual organisations vary considerably from this average picture. The chart to the right shows the number of organisations that receive the majority of their income (over 50%) from one source. Just over half of organisations […]

What is the voluntary sector’s most important type of income?

Income from donations, legacies and grants, from which the donor receives no material benefit, are collectively known as voluntary income. However voluntary organisations also sell goods and services – the proceeds from this trading are earned income. Earned income overtook voluntary income as the largest source of income in 2003/04, and now represents 54% of […]

Who do charities trade with?

Earned income grew every year between 2000/01 and 2006/07, and peaked in 2010/11 at £22.2 billion in 2011/12 prices. This increase was largely driven by an increase in trading with government, which continued to grow every year until 2009/10, but has now begun to fall as public spending is reduced. Trading with individuals and the […]

Where does the sector’s income from government come from?

Income from government totalled £13.7 billion in 2011/12. This includes resources from central and devolved administrations in the UK; local government, international bodies; and overseas governments. Total income from government has increased by 45% in real terms from £9.4 billion in 2000/01. However, it has fallen by £1.3 billion in real terms since 2010/11 and […]

How has the funding mix changed?

Voluntary organisations earned £11.1 billion in contracts and received £2.6 billion in grants in 2011/12. More than 80% of the government funding received by charities is now in the form of contracts for delivering services rather than grants to support their work, compared to 49% in 2000/01. The value of grants fell by 14.5% in […]

How many voluntary sector organisations have a financial relationship with government?

Roughly a quarter (25%) of the voluntary sector organisations – 41,000 in total – have a direct financial relationship with the state. Larger organisations are much more likely to receive funding from government, with more than two thirds of major (70%) and large (68%) charities receiving some kind of income from government compared to less […]

Where does government funding go to?

Over four-fifths (84%) of the sector’s income from government is received by organisations with an annual income of £1 million or more. Major and large organisations received £7.3 billion and £4.2 billion respectively in government grants and contracts. Small and micro organisations – over 135,000 in number – receive only 2% of the sector’s total […]

How have government spending cuts affected voluntary sector income?

Between 2010/11 and 2011/12, total income from government to voluntary sector organisations fell by £1.3 billion in real terms. The chart below shows the change in income from government during this period for different ICNPO categories of voluntary organisations. Only international organisations saw an increase in funding, while health organisations saw a small decrease in […]

Has the voluntary sector received disproportionate spending cuts?

In April 2013, NCVO forecast that income from government would be £1.7 billion lower by 2017/18 than it was in 2010/11 (using 2010/11 prices), assuming that the voluntary sector experienced cuts in proportion to the fall in total spending. NCVO’s Counting the Cuts report also examined two alternative scenarios – a “contract winning” scenario where […]

How are cuts affecting individual organisations?

Regional surveys indicate that spending cuts are impacting on the level of services provided by voluntary organisations. In London, one survey estimated that 51% of organisations had a reduction in their overall funding in 2012-13. A survey of organisations in the North East indicated that 59% of organisations had seen a decrease in funding over […]

What proportion of people give to charity?

Rather than voluntary income from individuals based on account information submitted by charities, the data presented here relates to people’s giving behaviour as tracked by the NCVO/CAF UK Giving which is a survey of individuals. According to the last edition of this survey, the proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month […]

What is the impact of high-level donors?

The percentage of donors giving £100 or more has fallen from 7% in 2010/11 to 6% in 2011/12. This small drop has had a significant impact on the total amount donated by the population because higher donations generate a large proportion of the amount donated. In 2010/11, donors giving £100 or more accounted for 45% […]

What kind of people give to charity?

In 2011/12, as in all previous years of the UK Giving Survey, women were more likely to give than men: 58% of women donated money to charity in a typical month, compared with 52% of men. Women continue to give higher average amounts than men, but only marginally so (with a median donation of £11 […]

What causes do people give to?

In 2011/12, as in all previous years of the UK Giving survey, medical research was the cause supported by the largest proportion of donors (33%). Over the past eight years, the next two most commonly supported causes have been hospitals and hospices (30%) and children and young people (23%). Religious causes attracted the largest donations […]

How does Gift Aid contribute to the sector’s income?

Gift Aid is part of a wider system of charitable tax reliefs worth £4.1 billion in 2012/13, the majority of which (£3.0 billion) was claimed by voluntary organisations, through tax repayments, national non-domestic rates, VAT and stamp duty/land tax. The remainder (£1.1 billion) was claimed by people giving to charity. In 2012/13 64,000 organisations reclaimed […]

How much does the voluntary sector receive in legacy income?

Legacies can be defined as “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will”. The voluntary sector received £2.0 billion in legacy income in 2011/12, 5.0% of total income. Overall, just 9,525 organisations (6.7%) received legacy income in 2011/12. Recipients received on average £207,000. Over the last decade, legacy income to the […]

How is National Lottery funding distributed?

Funds from the National Lottery provide a significant source of income for the UK voluntary sector. There are currently 12 independent distributing bodies responsible for distributing Lottery money, with five focusing on sport, five on the Arts, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund. In 2012, £1.5 billion was distributed by the Lottery […]

Who receives national lottery funding?

Evidence from voluntary sector organisations indicates they received £492 million from Lottery Distributors in 2011/12, accounting for 1.3% of the sector’s income. Lottery funding is most important to medium size organisations, who receive 3.0% of their income from this source. Over half (54%) of lottery funding is received by large and major organisations. Using open […]

How much does the voluntary sector spend?

The voluntary sector’s total current expenditure in 2011/12 was £38.0 billion. Spending is split between four main activities: charitable activities, grant-making, the cost of generating funds and governance.

How do voluntary organisations report their spending?

The Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP 2005) requires organisations with an income over £100,000 to report their expenditure using activity-based costing and accrual accounting. Smaller charities mostly prepare receipts and payments accounts, and choose their own reporting categories. This means that it is difficult to compare them with larger organisations as different accounting treatments […]

How does voluntary sector spending vary by sub-sector?

The delivery of social services accounts for a major proportion of the voluntary sector’s spending – 29,700 organisations spent £8.8 billion in 2011/12, an average of £295,000 per organisation. Research organisations (including large medical research funders like Cancer Research UK) had the highest average spending – 3,450 organisations spent £3 billion in total, an average […]

Do spending patterns vary by size of voluntary organisation?

On average, a larger proportion of smaller Fundraising and publicity expenditure (%, £ billions, 2011/12 prices) Other expenditure (%) Total income (£ billions, 2011/12 prices) organisations’ spending goes on charitable activities. For micro organisations, 93% of their spending goes on charitable activities and grant-making, compared to 85% for major organisations. Large and major organisations spend […]

How much does the voluntary sector spend on charitable activities, excluding grant-making?

In 2011/12 the voluntary sector spent £27.8 billion (73% of the total) on charitable activities excluding grant-making. This represents the second yearly fall in a row in real terms, from a peak of £29.1 billion in 2009/10. Expenditure on charitable activities is arguably a better guide to trends in overall activity in the voluntary sector […]

How much does it cost the voluntary sector to raise funds?

Voluntary organisations spent £4.3 billion on generating funds in 2011/12. £2.9 billion of this was spent on fundraising trading costs (and other costs of raising earned income). £1.0 billion was spent generating voluntary income – the cost of asking for donations. The remainder was spent on managing investments (£368 million). Overall, organisations spent 11% of […]

How much does the voluntary sector spend on grant-making?

The voluntary sector spent £5 billion in 2011/12 (13% of its total expenditure) making grants to other voluntary organisations, individuals and public sector organisations. The level of grant making dropped sharply by 26% in 2008/09, as the recession hit investment income and the value of assets. Since 2008/09 grants made have increased by £740 million […]

Who receives the grants that voluntary organisations make?

Using data first gathered for the 2003/04 financial year, we can estimate who receives the grants made by voluntary organisations. Higher education institutions and the public sector are significant recipients of grants, receiving £2.2 billion, which mostly funds research. We estimate that 51% of grants are made to other voluntary organisations (£2.6 billion).

What is the net worth of the voluntary sector?

The aggregate balance sheet shows the value of cash, property and investments organisations hold, taking into account loans and other debt to provide a snapshot of the total net worth of the sector. Many organisations hold assets to use in their work or to generate income. The sector’s assets are worth £123.4 billion. What organisations […]

How has the voluntary sector’s net worth changed?

The net worth of the sector has staged a modest recovery following the losses that occurred during the financial crisis, as the values of assets and investments fell in 2008/09. The net worth in 2011/12 was £105 billion, higher than the previous three years but lower than the three before that in real terms.

Is asset ownership in the voluntary sector widespread?

While the asset base of the voluntary sector is significant, it is concentrated into a small number of organisations. Five charities with net assets of £1 billion or more own 21% of the sector’s assets between them, with the Wellcome Trust alone responsible for 12%. One in five charities have no assets at all, with […]

How much does the voluntary sector hold as reserves?

There is no rule about how much charities should hold as reserves; indeed, where organisations have a reserves policy, they may not be able to generate surpluses in order to implement it. The Charity Commission defines reserves as “that part of a charity’s income funds that is freely available .” We estimate that the voluntary […]

What are the different types of asset that voluntary organisations hold?

Organisations hold two main classes of asset: fixed assets (£99.5 billion) and current assets (£23.9 billion). Fixed assets include tangible fixed assets (the buildings and equipment with substantial value that are owned by organisations to enable them to fulfil their mission), and investment assets (such as shareholdings or investment property), which are to generate income. […]

How many voluntary organisations own buildings and equipment?

We estimate that around 45,000 organisations hold some form of tangible fixed asset: 28% of the sector. Ownership rates are highest amongst the largest organisations: around 90% of major and large charities own some form of property, in contrast to only 29% of small organisations. The voluntary sector’s holdings of tangible fixed assets were worth […]

What are the voluntary sector’s liabilities?

Voluntary organisations carry both short and long-term liabilities on their balance sheet, with the largest organisations in particular also carrying provisions for future liabilities. These are primarily for pension fund commitments. Liabilities are valued at £18.6 billion in total, nearly half of which (48%) are long-term in nature.

How much is the voluntary sector borrowing?

The voluntary sector’s liabilities cover a wide range of future commitments. Just over one-quarter (26%) of the liabilities relate to borrowing that voluntary organisations have undertaken. This proportion has increased since the last time that loans were analysed in 2001/02. In 2011/12, the voluntary sector owed around £4 billion in loans, equivalent to 4% of […]

Is the voluntary sector a significant investor?

The sector’s investment assets – primarily equities, government securities, unit trusts and investment property – were collectively worth £66.2 billion in 2011/12. The voluntary sector was not immune from volatile asset prices following the financial crisis of 2008. The fall in the stock market together with a fall in property values dented the value of […]

What are the main trends in investment income?

The relative importance of investment income to the voluntary sector has begun to recover, after a strong decline after 2007/08, when it amounted to £3.7 billion in 2011/12 prices. Income from investments now represents 6.9% of the sector’s total income (£2.7 billion), an increase of 6.3% from the 2009/10 values, but below historic peaks of […]

Who benefits from the work of the voluntary sector?

Voluntary organisations exist to assist a wide range of beneficiary groups, covering all demographic groups within the UK population and people across the world, as well as the environment. The most popular beneficiary group is children and young people (51%) followed by the general public (37%) and old people (25%). Research conducted by Ipsos Mori […]

How do voluntary organisations work with those they support?

Voluntary organisations support their beneficiaries in a number of ways, from direct monetary aid, to the provision of services or facilities and enabling other organisations. Almost a third of the sector (28%) provides services. Just over one-quarter (26%) makes grants to voluntary organisations, which can then support their beneficiaries (see question 49 for more information […]

How many people work in the voluntary sector?

According to our analysis of the Labour Force Survey, approximately 800,000 people were employed in the voluntary sector in the UK by the end of 2012. This figure represents a small increase of around 18,000 over the previous two years. Since 2002, the voluntary sector’s workforce has seen an overall increase of around 234,000 employees […]

Who works in the voluntary sector?

By the final quarter of 2012, 524,000 women and 275,000 men were employed in the voluntary sector, meaning that just under two-thirds (66%) of the voluntary sector workforce were women. A similar ratio was found in the public sector (66%). Both proportions are in stark contrast to the proportion of women employed in the private […]

Where are voluntary sector staff located?

More than one in three (31%) voluntary sector workers lived either in London or the South East in the last quarter of 2012. Employees in the private and public sectors were also concentrated in these regions but to a lesser extent (27% and 25% respectively). Voluntary sector employees are mainly concentrated in small workplaces. Almost […]

What type of work is undertaken in the voluntary sector?

Around 432,000 people, a little under six out of ten (57%) employees in the voluntary sector, were employed in the ‘health and social work’ employment category. Within this broader category, over two thirds (67%) were employed in ‘social work activities without accommodation’, amounting to 300,000 people. Voluntary sector employees account for 31% of the overall […]

What training opportunities are there in the voluntary sector?

The majority of voluntary organisations (56%) provided both on-the-job and off-thejob training in their organisation, however just under one-fifth (18%) provided no training at all. Over half (59%) of all voluntary sector employers that had provided training over the last year train staff of all grades, however managers are significantly more likely to receive training […]

How secure are jobs in the voluntary sector?

By the end of 2012, almost nine out of every ten (89%) voluntary sector employees were on permanent contracts, lower than both the private and public sectors (95% and 92% respectively). Looking at those within the voluntary sector who were not permanent employees, roughly two thirds (66%) of temporary workers were on a casual contract, […]

What skills are required in the voluntary sector?

At the end of 2012, voluntary sector employees were highly qualified, with more than four in ten employees (44%) holding a degree level qualification or higher. This is slightly lower than employees within the public sector (45%) but higher than employees within the private sector (25%). Overall more than three quarters (78%) of voluntary sector […]

What are the working patterns in the voluntary sector?

In 2012, around 291,000 people were working part-time in the voluntary sector, amounting to almost two fifths (36%) of the sector’s workforce. This proportion is larger than those of the public and private sectors (30% and 26% respectively). Nearly half (44%) of the women employed within the voluntary sector were employed part-time compared to less […]

What is the state of pay in the voluntary sector?

At the end of 2012, half of voluntary sector employees earned less than £11 per hour. This is a little higher than in the private sector, but less than in the public sector (median hourly rates of around £10 and £13 respectively). The median hourly pay in the voluntary sector has increased by a little […]

How much does the voluntary sector spend on staff costs?

Staff costs, as identified in voluntary organisations’ accounts, cut across the range of expenditure categories within the accounts. In addition to salaries, staff costs also cover: the costs of employing staff who work for the charity even if the charity has not incurred those costs; employers’ National Insurance costs; and pension costs. In 2011/12, voluntary […]

How many people regularly volunteer in the UK?

In August 2012-April 2013, 29% of adults in England said that they had formally volunteered at least once a month in the previous year, and 44% said that they had volunteered at least once in that year. This equates to an estimate of 12.7 million people volunteering in England once a month, and 19.2 million […]

How has the number of people volunteering changed over time?

Rates of formal volunteering peaked in 2005, when 44% of respondents to the annual Citizenship Survey reported that they had volunteered in the past year. This rate declined slowly to 39% by 2010/11. More recent statistics briefly hinted at a return to the peak level figures (44%) in 2012/13, only to decrease again (41%) the […]

What are the barriers to volunteering?

A range of reasons are given by people for not participating in volunteering-related activities. In the 2010/11 Citizenship Survey the main reasons people gave for not volunteering were broadly related to having other calls on their time (eg, work, family/caring, study or other commitments), with lack of awareness of opportunities the second most common, and […]

Who volunteers in the UK?

People of all ages volunteer. Despite some variation in the frequency and levels of volunteering across age ranges, between around a quarter (24%) and a third (33%) of people in each age range report volunteering at least once a month (with those aged 65-74 the most likely to volunteer this frequently). The numbers volunteering less […]

How many young people volunteer?

Amongst younger respondents to the Community Life Survey, there have been a number of changes over time. In common with the trend across all age groups, the most recent data show an increase in volunteering among the 16-25 age group (from 23% in 2010/11 to 28% in 2011/12), after several years of stability. To explore […]


Voluntary sector Voluntary sector definition As in previous Almanacs, the “general charities” definition is used within this Almanac to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector. This is to enable comparisons over time for this core part of the sector. The clear limits to the definition enable the production of robust, clearly defined estimates for both […]