Voluntary organisations can fulfil their charitable aims by financially supporting organisations and individuals through the giving of grants. Trusts, foundations and grant-makers are used interchangeably but they mean different things. A foundation is a type of trust whose income derives from an endowment of land or invested capital: but not all trusts and foundations make grants, some directly undertake their own charitable activity. Conversely, many operating charities make grants, though this may not be their main activity.
- Over 38,000 organisations spent money making grants in 2014/15, representing 27% of the total number of organisations in the sector. However only 12,753 of those organisations were grant-making foundations.
- The voluntary sector spent a total of £6.4bn on grants in 2014/15, accounting for 14% of overall spending.
- The amount spent on grants by voluntary organisations has increased in the last two years. Changes from year to year may be driven by a small number of ‘one-off’ grants but could also be linked to the way charities have documented grant-giving in their accounts (see chapter on spending for more explanation and methodology section).
Top grant makers
- Grant making remains dominated by a small group of organisations: the ten largest grant makers account for 26% of all grants made.
Spending on grants (£m)
|Cancer Research UK||
|The Save the Children Fund||
|The Save the Children International||
|British Heart Foundation||
|The Leverhulme Trust||
|The Children's Investment Fund Foundation (UK)||
|The Thalidomide Trust||
- Organisations in the two largest income bands (major and super-major) spent the most on grants, £1.9bn and £1.6bn respectively.
By activity type
Unsurprisingly, grant-making foundations were the organisations that spent the most on grants as a proportion of total spending (61%), followed by research (37%) and international organisations (24%).
By type of recipient
- International voluntary organisations receive the most grants from the voluntary sector.
- Over half of grants are made to other voluntary organisations (£3.4bn).Higher education institutions and the public sector are also significant recipients of grants, receiving £2.6bn, which mostly funds research. The remaining grants are made to individuals and other institutions.
- Charities with an income of up to £10m (micro to large organisations) predominantly gave grants to other voluntary organisations whereas major and super-major organisations were more likely to give grants to government bodies and universities.
To find out more about income to the voluntary sector from grants, see Income Sources