Voluntary sector definition

As in previous Almanacs, the “general charities” definition is used to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector. Included in this definition are those registered charities that meet the following criteria: formality, independence, non-profit distributing, self-governance, voluntarism and public benefit.

Voluntary sector methodology

Financial data for a sample of 7,500 of these organisations was obtained by entering data from the charities’ annual accounts. This data entry process was carried out on behalf of NCVO by the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Before use, the data is cleaned to remove significant errors, and undergoes a series of checks to ensure validity. Those records where accounts were submitted in a foreign currency were converted to Pounds Sterling. To ensure consistency all values were converted to April 2014 prices using the retail price index.

Supplementary data from SCVO and NICVA is used to produce estimates of the UK population. Due to rounding figures, some percentage totals may not sum to 100%.

Sub-sectoral analysis is based on assigning charities to categories in the International Classification of Non-profit Organisations (ICNPO). Within the Almanac, voluntary organisations are divided into six groups based on their income. Each group is named to make it easier to discuss the findings and place them in context. For the first time this year we have included a “Super-major” group including charities with more than £100m annual income.

Charitable giving

Charitable giving data is from the CAF UK Giving 2014, based on a survey of 5,068 individuals conducted by GfK NOP.


Our employment figures are largely based on Labour Force Survey (LFS) data. The LFS surveys an estimated 60,000 private households every quarter. By pooling data for unique individuals from four quarters, it is possible to produce reliable estimates of the sector’s workforce. Weighting is used within the LFS to compensate for non-response rates in certain groups and produce population estimates.


This data draws on the Citizenship Survey (2001-2010/11) and Community Life Survey (2012/13-present), the best sources of data on rates of volunteering in England. There was no survey in 2011/12 between the two surveys. The measures used here were common to both surveys. The data collection methods were also broadly similar. However, there was a marked change in data collection between the second and third wave of the Community Life Survey, with the sample being reduced from 5,000 in 2013/14 to 2,000 in 2014/15.

The survey describes both ‘formal volunteering’, which takes place through a group, club or organisation, and ‘informal volunteering’, which takes place independently of such structures. Data is drawn from the most recent survey unless otherwise stated, which reports on volunteering during the 2014/15 year, and includes the appropriate weighting.

Voluntary sector – population and sample, England and Wales, 2013/14
Registered with the Charity Commission77,23053,61424,4225,7611,17792162,296
General Charities69,35347,21218,5423,93552439139,605
Sample (% of general charities)0.1%2.6%15.2%71.6%95.6%100%

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Income Bands

This year’s Almanac continues to define income bands as in previous editions, with the exception of ‘Super-major’.  This new income band is warranted because there has been a noticeable increase in organisations with income of over £100m.

IncomeIncome (sample bands)Category
Less than £10,000Zero incomeMicro
£1 - £10,000
£10,000 to £100,000£10,001 - £25,000Small
£25,001 - £100,000
£100,000 to £1 million£100,001 - £500,000Medium
£500,001 - £1,000,000
£1 million to £10 million£1,000,001 - £10,000,000Large
More than £10 million£10,000,001 - £100,000,000Major
More than £100 millionOver £100,000,000Super-major

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UK Civil Society Almanac 2016 / About the Almanac

Published: 04-04-2016 / Tagged: