TypeSource(s)Data Quality
Benevolent SocietiesNCVO, ACO (Association of Charitable Organisations)Poor
Building SocietiesBSA (Building Society Assocation)Good
Common Investment FundsNCVOPoor
Community Interest CompaniesRegulator of Community Interest Companies; NSCSE (National Survey of Charities and Social Enterprises)Poor
Social' Companies Limited by GuaranteeCompanies House; NCVOPoor
CooperativesCo-operatives UKGood/Limited
Credit UnionsBank of England; ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions)Good
Employee owned businessesEmployer Ownership AssociationLimited/Poor
Football/Rugby supporter trustsSupporters DirectLimited
Friendly Societies and Mutual InsurersICMIF (International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation)Limited
General CharitiesNCVOGood
Housing AssociationsHomes & Communities Agency; Community Housing; Scottish Housing Regulator; Northern Ireland Housing Association; National Housing Federation; L&Q Group Good
Independent SchoolsDfE (Department for Education); Scottish Government; DENI (Department for Education Northern Ireland); SCIS (Scottish Council of Independent Schools); NCVOLimited
Leisure TrustsSporta; Financial accountsLimited
Political partiesElectoral Commission; NCVOGood/Limited
Religious bodiesNCVO; Various sourcesPoor
Sports ClubsSRA (Sport Recreation Alliance)Limited
Trade Associations and Professional BodiesPARN (Professional Associations Research Network); BIS (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills)Limited
Trade UnionsCertification Office for Trade Unions and Employers' Associations; NCVOGood
UniversitiesHESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency)Good

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By type of organisation

Benevolent societies

Benevolent societies, funds or institutions are societies established for a charitable purpose. Benefits are usually wider distributed than their members. They are often occupational, ie. they are linked to a specific occupation or field.

Population and financial data for common investment funds is based on a set of registered charities excluded from the general charities definition of the Civil Society Almanac. Keywords used for exclusion were beneficiaries, benefit, pension, and fund.

Building societies

A building society is a financial institution owned by its members as a mutual organisation. Building societies offer banking and related financial services, especially savings and mortgage lending.

A list of all building societies was taken from the BSA (Building Society Association). Financial data was sourced through individual accounts of all building associations submitted to Companies House. Membership and staff numbers were taken from statistics published by the BSA.


Common investment funds

CIFs are collective investment schemes, and as such provide a way for those entitled to invest in them to diversify their investments in order to spread investment risk. They operate as investment vehicles and are treated for all purposes as charities. They are therefore eligible for registration as charities in their own right.

Population and financial data for common investment funds is based on a set of registered charities excluded from the general charities definition of the Civil Society Almanac.

Community interest companies

A Community interest company (CIC) is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders. Community Interest Companies are one of the fastest growing community oriented enterprise movements in the country. The CIC legislation was introduced as a legal form under the Companies Act 2006 and subject to that Act and company law generally.

A list of CICs is available at the CIC regulator. Financial data is partially available at Companies House. For this report, survey data from the NSCSE was used to produce a total estimate of income and staff.



The term ‘co-operative’ is defined by the International Co-operative Alliance as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. Co-operatives can use different legal forms. Because of the values and principles of the co-operative movement, many co-operatives are social enterprises – that is they have primarily social objectives and reinvest or use the majority of their profits for those objectives. Such enterprises may use a standard cooperative society or company legal structure. Alternatively, they may adopt a legal structure designed for social enterprise – either the community interest company (CIC) or the community benefit society.

Data for co-operatives is sourced from Co-operatives UK. Numbers for housing co-operatives, credit unions and employee owned businesses (where identifiable) were excluded to avoid double-counting.


Credit unions

A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions also provide services intended to support community development or sustainable international development on a local level.

All data for credit unions was sourced from the Certification Officer. The Certification Officer is the regulator of trade unions and employers’ associations in the UK.


Employee owned businesses

Employee owned businesses are totally or significantly owned by their employees. Most data was taken gathered through the EOA (Employee Ownership Association). Some data was only available for the top 50 UK businesses. Population data was taken from Mutuo.


Football/rugby supporter trusts

Supporter trusts are democratic and inclusive supporter owned clubs that reinvest any profits back into the club and are committed to running as a sustainable business.

Data for football and rugby supporter trusts was sourced from Supporters Direct, a society set up to help fans and supporters gain influence in the running and ownership of their club.


Friendly societies and mutual insurers

A friendly society is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious, political, or trade affiliations.

Data for this type of organisations was sourced from the ICMIF (International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation).


General charities

The definition of general charities is based on a definition used in the Almanacs to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector, and includes those registered charities that meet the following criteria: formality, independence, non-profit distributing, self-governance, voluntarism and public benefit.

Data for general charities is taken from the Almanac 2016. For more information please see the methodology section of the Almanac.

Housing associations

Housing associations are private, non-profit making organisations that provide low-cost “social housing” for people in need of a home. Any trading surplus is used to maintain existing housing and to help finance new homes. Although independent they are regulated by the state and commonly receive public funding. They are now the UK’s major providers of new housing for rent, while many also run shared ownership schemes to help those who cannot afford to buy a home outright.

Population and financial data was sourced from various regional housing regulators and associations, including the Homes & Communities Agency, Scottish Housing Regulator, Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, and Community Housing Cymru Group. The total number of residents in the UK is based on an estimate made by the National Housing Federation.


Independent schools

Independent schools are fee-paying private schools, governed by an elected board of governors. They are ‘independent’ because of their freedom to operate, to a considerable extent, outside government regulations, though they have to conform to official standards of education, health and safety, are regularly inspected and prepare pupils for the same public exams as state schools.

Population data for independent schools comes from different regional government unit and sources, including the DfE (Department for Education), the Scottish Government, the National Statistics for Wales, the DENI (Department for Education Northern Ireland), and the SCIS (Scottish Council for Independent Schools). Financial data is based on a set of registered charities excluded from the general charities definition of the Civil Society Almanac.


Leisure trusts

Over recent years leisure trusts have grown in number and size in the UK. With varying organisational forms from those with charitable status to mutuals, they provide sporting as well as other leisure and cultural facilities such as libraries for the benefit of their local communities. Profits are reinvested into communities, rather than distributed to shareholders.

Population data for leisure trusts is based on a list of Sporta members. Sporta is the national association of leisure and cultural trusts. Financial estimates are based on financial data of those leisure trusts that have submitted their annual accounts to Companies House.


Political parties

The accounts of registered political parties are available from the Electoral Commission. A summary of accounts is provided by the Electoral Commission holding all financial data. Staff and member data was taken from individual accounts of the largest and most-well known parties in the UK. An estimate for all smaller parties based on a small sample was added to gather the total amount.


  • Individual accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission by the Labour Party, Conservative and Unionist Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party (SNP), UK Independence Party (UKIP), Green Party, Sinn Féin,m Co-operative Party, Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, Democratic Unionist Party – D.U.P., SDLP (Social Democratic & Labour Party), Ulster Unionist Party, Scottish Green Party.

Religious bodies

This type of organisation is different from faith based charities, in a way that religious bodies and places of worship include institutions whose main focus lays on the religious practice and whose main beneficiary is a member of the particular religion.

Population data is gathered through multiple sources and covers the largest religions and denominations in the UK. Financial data for religious bodies and places of worhsip is based on a set of registered charities excluded from the general charities definition of the Almanac. Example keywords used for exclusion are: Church, Jesus, Diocesan, Saint(s), Mosque, Jehovah Witness.


‘Social’ companies limited by guarantee

Companies limited by Guarantee is a legal form that is commonly used by organisations with social goals that do not distribute their profits, but it is also a common legal form for holding companies, and for companies which manage or own the freehold of property on behalf of the leaseholders. Therefore, a “social” definition was applied to exclude these management companies as they provide private benefit (albeit without distribution of profits). Furthermore, companies that are also registered charities were excluded to avoid double-counting.

Data for this type of organisations is based on a report on social investment. Please see the research report for more information on the methodology.


Sports clubs

The total population is sourced from a research paper by Nichols in 2004. Other data for sports clubs is based on the sports club survey conducted by the SRA (Sport and Recreation Alliance) in 2013. Total estimates exclude for profit sport clubs.


  • Nichols, G. (2004) Entitled Voluntary activity in UK sport. Voluntary Action, 6(2), 31- 54. (Accessed 20/12/2016)

Trade associations and professional bodies

A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organisation founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. A professional body is a non-profit organisation seeking to further a particular profession, the interests of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public interest. It may lay down educational and experience qualifications for membership, keep a register of members, promulgate standards of conduct to be maintained by the members, and enforce the standards through a complaints and disciplinary procedure.

Population data for trade associations is based on an estimate made by BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) in 2012. Population data for professional bodies is based on numbers published by PARN (Professional Associations Research Network). Financial data is based on a set of registered charities excluded from the general charities definition of the Civil Society Almanac.


  • PARN (2014) Financial Benchmarking Report 2013-14.

Trade unions

Financial data was sourced for all trade unions in the UK from the Certification Office’s annual report. The Certification Office is the regulator of trade unions and employer associations, and uses annual accounts to compile their report.



Financial, staff and student data was sourced for all UK universities from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and aggregated to produce totals for the UK. HESA data is based on the annual accounts of universities. HESA until recently provided open data on students, staff and finances of universities but moved to a data on request approach at the time of publishing these statistics. Therefore, links to previous sources aren’t available anymore. For more information, please contact HESA.


  • HESA (2015) Finances – balance sheet.
  • HESA (2015) Students in Higher Education.
    • HESA (2015) Staff in Higher Education.


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UK Civil Society Almanac 2016 / Civil Society

Published: 20-12-2016