UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 /
Income from individuals

Income from individuals comprises:

  • voluntary income (including donations and legacies);
  • earned income (including sales of merchandise and fees for events or services).

For more information on different types of income, see Income sources.

Income from individuals overview

Income from individuals increased in 2014/15

  • Income from individuals in 2014/15 increased by nearly £0.8bn from 2013/14.
  • The general upward trend seen from 2009/10 continues to hold, even after adjusting for inflation (RPIX). The increase between 2013/14 and 2014/15 is, however, not as large as between 2012/13 and 2013/14 (an increase of £1.4bn, from £18.4bn to £19.8bn).
Income from individuals, 2000/01 to 2014/15, (£bn, 2014/15 prices)

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By size

Income from individuals provides the largest proportion of income for every size of organisation

  • Income from individuals make up over half the income for micro and small organisations but larger organisations receive a smaller share (43%-46%).
  • The proportion of income from individuals has increased for all organisation sizes except super-major between 2013/14 and 2014/2015.
Income from individuals as share of total income by income band, 2014/15 (%)

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By sub-sector

The sub-sector breakdown presented in the Almanac is based on the International Classification of Non-profit Organisations (ICNPO).

  • In some sub-sectors organisations are particularly dependent on income from individuals and this has increased since last year: for instance, income from individuals provides around two-thirds of the income for environmental (71%) and religious (66%) organisations.
  • In fact, 12 out of the 19 subsectors saw their income proportion from individuals increase from 2013/14.
Income from individuals as a share of total income by sub-sector, 2014/15 (%)

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Earned income from individuals

More individual earned income comes from charitable activities than from activities for generating funds

  • Earned income from individuals is made up of income earned through ‘charitable activities’ such as rent for accommodation, fees for adult social care, training course fees, admission charges and membership subscriptions, and ‘activities for generating funds’, for example the sale of donated goods in charity shops and admission fees for fundraising events.
  • Earned income from individuals accounted for more than two-fifth of the sector’s overall earned income (42%) and over one-fifth of overall income for the sector (23%). Of the £10.5bn of earned income from individuals, around three-fifths (£6.2bn) came from charitable activities.
Earned income from individuals, 2014/15 (£bn)

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Charitable giving

Donations provide the largest share of the income that voluntary organisations receive from individuals

  • Voluntary organisations received £10.1bn from individual donations and legacies. In 2014/15 donations from individuals generated £7.6bn, accounting for 37% of all individual income. Individual donations accounted for 17% of total income, comparable to 2013/14.
Sources of income from individuals, 2014/15 (% of total)

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An alternative source of information about charitable donations is large-scale surveys of individuals’ charitable giving behaviour, in particular the CAF UK giving report[1] and the Cabinet Office’s 2015/16 Community Life Survey[2].

  • The latest CAF survey report  estimates that £9.6bn was donated to charity by adults in 2015. CAF have said that the large apparent £1bn decrease in charitable giving from £10.6bn in 2014 is due to the method of weighting they used in the UK Giving 2014 report. They have since revised this report’s individual giving figure to £10.1bn.
  • The 2014/15 Almanac data estimates individual donations at £7.6bn. This figure does not include activities for generating funds, which accounted for £4.3bn of income from individuals, altogether making £11.9bn.
  • However, there are a number of reasons why the estimates from the Almanac and the CAF Giving Survey may differ[3], so it is difficult to assess which figure most accurately represents the overall level of charitable giving. Both estimates, however, demonstrate the scale of charitable giving and its importance to organisations in the voluntary sector.

Charitable giving is widespread but varies according to demographics

  • In the 2015 CAF survey, the proportions of people reporting giving money to charitable causes in a typical month was 42% and 67% in the previous twelve months.
  • In the 2015/16 Community Life Survey, 73% reported giving in the month prior to interview. We judge this is likely to be an overestimate; the  CAF survey report notes  that that the Community Life survey includes some donations that are not explicitly covered by the CAF survey (e.g. giving to people begging on the street) and also does not include an initial screening question
  • There are indications, in both the CAF and Community Life Survey reports, of a small decrease in the proportion of people giving[4]. These should be treated with caution; as the CAF report notes, the changes are within the normal margin of error but they could be early signs of a decrease in charitable giving amongst individuals. Only longer term trend data will enable us to see whether this is a real trend.
  • Patterns of charitable giving by gender, age and social grade have been more consistent between the two surveys and through time.
  • Women are more likely than men to make charitable donations; in the 2014 CAF survey[5], 43% of women reported giving money in the last, compared with 38% of men, although men on average make higher donations than women (£39 and £35 respectively in the CAF survey).
  • Monthly charitable giving is highest (38%) among people aged 45-64 compared with 14% of younger people aged 18-24; this is likely to reflect levels of disposable income.
  • The most popular causes for charitable giving are children & young people and medical research; in 2015 the proportion of people giving to causes supporting children and young people has just overtaken those giving to medical research (30% and 29% respectively).

High value charitable giving

Donations worth £1m or more have increased in value to £1.83bn, the highest since the financial crisis of 2008/09

  • The Coutts survey[6] is a separate survey that focuses on donations worth £1m or more. The latest report found that in 2015 both the number of donations and the total value of such charitable donations had increased, 355 donations totalling £1.83bn compared with £1.56bn spread over 298 donations in 2014. However, the Coutts report does not adjust previous years’ figures for inflation.
  • The highest overall donation went to the University of Oxford, made by the Wellcome Trust (although this was made across a number of separate grants).
  • In 2015, higher education continues to be the top recipient subsector (£639m), accounting for over one-third (35%) of the total value of donations worth £1m or more. Foundations are the next highest (£500m). Higher education institutions and foundations together received a total of £1.14bn of the £1.83bn.


Only a small proportion of organisations receive legacy income

  • Legacies, which can be defined as ‘an amount of money or property left to someone in a will’, totalled £2.46bn in 2014/15, accounting for 12% of income from individuals and 5% of total income, the same proportions as in 2013/14.
  • This represents a rise of over £162m to the sector from legacies from 2013/14.
  • Over the last decade, legacy income to the sector has fluctuated in real terms between £1.9bn and £2.5bn, the latter peak value occurring in 2007/08. This year nearly reaches that peak but is short by £30m.
Legacy income to the voluntary sector, 2000/01 to 2014/15 (£bn, 2014/15 prices)

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Gift Aid

  • Gift aid[7] repayments to charities reached £1.2bn in 2014/15, the year covered by the Almanac 2017, an increase on the previous year (£1.1bn); these repayments have increased steadily since 2009/10, although note they are not adjusted for inflation. This trend has continued into the financial year 2015/16, with Gift Aid repayments increasing again to £1.26bn.
  • HMRC estimate suggest that around 68,700 charities claimed gift aid in 2014/15, although this definition of charity goes beyond just registered charities in England and Wales[8]. Note that the total numbers of charities and amounts claimed do not include the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme as it represents public expenditure.
Gift aid repayments to charities, 2000/01 to 2015/16 (£m, 2015/16 prices)

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Source: HMRC


Charity Aid Foundation, UK giving 2016 
Cabinet Office’s 2015/16 Community Life Survey
The accounts information relates only to registered charities and excludes organisations in the wider civil society, which individuals might include in their reported giving. The amounts classified as ‘donations’ in the accounts are correctly included; it is more debatable whether the amounts classified as ‘fundraising’ should (all) be included. In the survey of individuals, there is sampling error around both the proportion of people reporting giving and the amounts reported. Both measures are also susceptible to social desirability error and recall error, the latter particularly likely for occur for the amounts given.
The 73% level of giving in the 2015/16 CLS is slightly lower than that reported in the 2014/15 survey (75%).
Charities Aid Foundation, UK giving 2014
Coutts survey
Gift Aid data available online
Data from HMRC available online
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UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 / The Voluntary Sector /Income

Published: 08-05-2017 / Tagged: