Executive summary

Sir Stuart Etherington Chief Executive, NCVO This 16th edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac is published in uncertain times. The decision to leave the European Union, a new government and wider global changes will fundamentally alter our country’s economic, political and social landscape. In the run-up to the 2017 general election, lively debates are […]

Sponsor’s Foreword

Cazenove Charities is delighted to sponsor the NCVO Almanac again this year. Now in its 16th edition, the Almanac provides an important reminder of the voluntary sector’s contribution to our economy and society. As evidence of this positive impact, it is encouraging that the number of people working in the sector has increased by 27% […]


The UK Civil Society Almanac is now in its 16th edition. It brings together data from charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys to provide a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector. In so doing it offers invaluable insights into the ways in which the sector is experiencing growth and […]

What is civil society

Civil society has been defined in many ways: as the associational life that brings people together and allows civic values and skills to develop as a set of values associated with the ‘good society’ which aims for social, economic and political progress as a space where debate and deliberation allows the negotiation of the common […]

Income and spending

Income Civil society organisations have an estimated combined annual income of £197.8bn Voluntary organisations make up the largest part of civil society in financial terms, accounting for the largest share of income with £45.5bn. Universities (£30.7bn), employee owned businesses (£30bn), and co-operatives (£23.9bn) are the other major sectors in terms of income. Largest organisations Spending […]


Civil society organisations control substantial assets with an estimated value of £283.9bn. This figure largely consists of fixed assets such as property and investments. It also includes some cash deposits, but excludes the assets of financial services industries (e.g. building societies, credit unions, and friendly societies and mutual insurers), which is mostly comprised of customer […]


Civil society organisations are major employers in the UK with an estimated 2.3 million people employed as paid staff. This is equivalent to 7% of the total UK workforce in 2014 – more than the workforce of the NHS, the UK’s single largest employer (1.5 million employees), and same as for the construction industry (2.2 million […]


Overview This section draws on many different data sources, including Co-operatives UK, the Building Society Association, the Department for Education, and many more. The data for most civil society organisations is for the financial year 2013/14, except for the data on general charities, which is for 2014/15. To our knowledge, this represents the most up-to-date […]

Fast Facts

Get the latest facts on voluntary sector organisations, workforce, charitable giving and volunteering.

Size and scope

Overview The voluntary sector is a vital part of the fabric of a strong society in the UK. It is extremely diverse, hosting a vast array of organisations ranging in size, aims and activity. Our analysis of the sector is based on our “general charities” definition (see Methodology) which allows comparison of figures from year […]

Finance Overview

Highlights Both the income and the spending of the voluntary sector increased in 2014/15, continuing the increases observed in the previous year which saw the first notable net income growth since the peak of 2007/08 In 2014/15, total income has increased to £45.5bn, with voluntary sector spending standing at £43.3bn More than half (56%) of […]

Economic value

Highlights The voluntary sector contributed around 0.7% of total GDP. This is similar to 2013/14 To put this amount in context, the contribution of the voluntary sector (£12.2bn) is close to the GDP of Cyprus (£12bn) The nature of the voluntary sector’s finances and the available data make it difficult to quantify the sector’s value […]


Highlights Voluntary organisations are not distributed evenly throughout the UK: England has the highest number for any of the four countries (133,380), representing 80% of all UK charities Most voluntary organisations operate at the local level (77%) – a higher proportion of smaller organisations operate locally than with larger organisations London contains the highest percentage […]


Highlights Children and young people were the most common beneficiary group in terms of both number of organisations (59%) and overall spending (21%) Around one in three said they have used the services of a charity. However, when prompted with a wider list of charitable activities and services this increased to 94% Service provision was […]

Volunteering overview

Highlights An estimated 14.2 million people formally volunteered at least once a month in 2015/16 Rates of formal and informal volunteering are largely unchanged from the previous year Mean hours of volunteering by regular volunteers remain stable, with regular volunteers giving on average 11.6 hours per month The value of formal volunteering was estimated to […]

Volunteer Profiles

Highlights There are no gender differences in rates of formal volunteering between men and women; however more women than men informally volunteered, both regularly and irregularly (see Volunteering overview for definitions) Women were considerably more likely to provide caring roles and men more likely to give advice and represent others 2015/16 data shows that the […]

Volunteer activities

Highlights Sports organisations, clubs and groups attract the most volunteers, with half of those who have formally volunteered in the past year doing so with a sports club, organisations or group The most popular activity undertaken by volunteers is organising or helping to run a charity event or activity, followed closely by raising/handling money or […]

Motivations and barriers to volunteering

Motivations for volunteering People give multiple reasons for volunteering Among those who had formally volunteered at least once in the last 12 months, the most frequent reasons given for volunteering were to improve things/help people (61%) and that the cause was considered important (39%). Less frequently mentioned reasons included: to get on in my career […]


Highlights 853,000 people were employed in the voluntary sector in the UK in June 2016. This figure represents an overall increase of nearly 27,000 since June 2015. Over the period June 2014 to June 2015 the increase was significantly smaller (+13,000) By comparison, the public sector employed 7.1 million staff, an increase of nearly 9,800 […]

Income sources

Highlights In 2014/15, earned income increased again, by £0.7bn to £24.8bn Most sources of income increased in 2014/15 except for private sector which fell by £500m In 2014/15 private sector donations fell back, from £2.3bn in 2013/14 to £1.9bn, having increased from £1.8bn in 2012/13 The level of voluntary income (including donations and grants from […]

Income from individuals

Highlights In 2014/15, income from individuals amounted to £20.6bn, representing 45% of the sector’s income Income from individuals increased by £0.8bn Income from individuals continues to increase but not at the same pace as last year The proportion of total income from individuals has increased for all income bands (except Super-major) and for the majority […]

Income from government

Definitions The definition of government used here covers any statutory body, including central government departments, local authorities, devolved and regional government, the EU and international governments, town and parish councils, NHS Trusts and a range of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). Generally transactions are simply between the statutory authority and the voluntary organisation, but more complex […]


Highlights In 2014/15 the voluntary sector’s total spending was £43.3bn Voluntary organisations spent £30.2bn on carrying out their charitable activities, £6.4bn on grants, £5.9bn on generating funds and £0.9bn on governance 84% of the sector’s spending went towards either charitable activities or grant making In terms of value, spending on charitable activities and grant making […]

Generating Funds

Highlights Voluntary organisations spent £5.9bn on generating funds in 2014/15. There has been a steady increase in this type of spending since 2010/11 Overall, the costs of generating funds amounted to 14% of total spending in 2014/15. The super-major organisations spent the most on generating funds as a proportion of their total spending (17%) The […]

Grant Making

Highlights The voluntary sector spent a total of £6.4bn on grants in 2014/15, making it the peak year for grant making spend Grant-making remains dominated by a small group of organisations: the ten largest grant-makers account for 26% of all grants made Larger organisations spent the most on grant making, with major organisations spending £1.9bn […]

Assets and reserves

Highlights Assets The voluntary sector’s total net assets were worth £112.7bn in 2014/15 The net worth of the sector has grown steadily over the last four years but still has not reached pre-crisis levels from 2007/08 The distribution of assets is uneven: 86% of the total assets are held by just 3% of charities, and […]

Liabilities and loans

Highlights In 2014/15 the sector had £17.7bn of liabilities – just over half of which is longer-term debt, including loans, pensions and provisions Larger voluntary organisations are more likely to have long-term liabilities The sector’s pension deficit increased slightly to £2.0bn in 2014/15, with the largest 3% of voluntary organisations carrying 86% of the sector’s […]


Highlights The voluntary sector’s total investment assets were worth £85.1bn in 2014/15, and make up 65% of the sector’s total assets The investment assets of the sector continue to grow and almost reach pre-crisis levels from 2007/08 Similar to the distribution of total assets, larger voluntary organisations are more likely to have investment assets than […]


Voluntary sector definition As in previous Almanacs, the “general charities” definition is used to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector. The definition is based on common features of non-profit organisations and was originally constructed to also fit Office for National Statistics (ONS) national accounting purposes. Included in the ‘general charities’ definition are those registered charities that […]

Scope data

Number of UK voluntary organisations by country, 2014/15 Distribution of voluntary organisations and their financial characteristics by region and UK country, 2014/15 Distribution of voluntary organisations and their financial characteristics by area of activity, 2014/15

Income data

Voluntary sector income by size of organisation, 2014/15 (£m) Voluntary sector income source by size of organisation, 2014/15 (£m) Voluntary sector income, 2003/04 to 2014/15 (£m)

Spending data

Voluntary sector spending by size of organisation, 2014/15 (£m) Voluntary sector spending, 2003/04 to 2014/15 (£m)

Assets data

Voluntary sector assets and liabilities by size of organisation, 2014/15 (£m) Voluntary sector funds by size of organisation, 2014/15 (£m) Voluntary sector assets and liabilities, 2003/04 to 2014/15 (£m)

Almanac 2017 animations: Top facts about the charity sector and volunteering

19/02/2018 Are you looking for the top facts on the charity sector and volunteering? Then browse through our short, bit-sized animations for the Almanac 2017: all the headlines in just a few seconds. Top facts about the voluntary sector Top facts about income Top facts about workforce Top facts about volunteering

Don’t take it for granted: Five lessons learned from the data on grant making in the UK

19/10/2017 We know from the Almanac 2014/15 that grants to the voluntary sector represent a total of £6.3bn, which is 14% of the total income of the sector. Most granted money (93%) comes from other voluntary organisations (47%) or the government (46%). Despite its importance to the sector, the proportion of the money given out in […]

Getting involved: How people make a difference

13/12/2017 In November we launched our publication Getting Involved: How people make a difference (pdf, 3.4MB), which is part of our Almanac series of publications that aim to improve understanding of civil society and inform current debates. Drawing on data from a wide range of sources and full of the latest statistics, this new publication […]

Five numbers that describe the European Union workforce in the UK voluntary sector

25/09/2017 The UK Civil Society Almanac presents each year information on the voluntary sector workforce using data from the Labour Force Survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Following the referendum in June 2016, we thought we’d take a look at the numbers and proportions of European Union nationals working in the UK voluntary […]

A changing funding landscape for charities involved in criminal justice

31/07/2017 This month, Clinks launched their State of The Sector report which looks at how voluntary organisations working in criminal justice are doing. This year the report is based on NCVO research comprising an analysis of financial accounts of such organisations based on the NCVO Almanac data set, as well as a survey and follow […]

Almanac webinar on key findings and policy implications

27/07/2017 In July NCVO ran a webinar exploring the key findings and policy implications coming out of the 2017 UK Civil Society Almanac data. A recording of the webinar is now available and can be watched here, as well as on this page below. The webinar focused on four key themes : Income and spending in the […]

Top facts about small charities

21/06/2017 It’s Small Charity Week – time to recognise and reflect on the work of smaller charities. We have summarised what we know about small charities, including who they are, what they do and how their are funded. What data do we have for small charities? There is not one definition of small charities. The […]

The Children and Young People’s Voluntary Sector

08/02/2017 Once again, we have produced a financial analysis of the children and young people’s voluntary sector in England, based on Almanac data from 2013/14. Within the report, we analysed two populations: The ‘core’ population – Organisations for whom children and young people are the primary beneficiaries. The ‘wider’ population – Organisations for whom children […]

Interactive visualisations of Almanac data

29/07/2016 We are always exploring new ways to communicate Almanac data, such as our recent animated videos, available here for the 2016 edition. Currently our charts (although downloadable) are mostly static, which limits the amount of information that we can include in any one graphic. Therefore here we have experimented with presenting some of the data […]

A focus on small charities

17/06/2016 It’s Small Charity Week and time to recognise and reflect on the work of smaller charities. A recent report published by IPPR North highlighted the importance of small charities in wider society, arguing that they are most likely to be rooted and embedded in communities, often engaging with local problems and the hardest to […]