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 to year. Under our definition there were 165,801 voluntary organisations in 2014/15.

The voluntary sector’s economy is dominated by larger charities

  • Voluntary organisations with an annual income of £1m or more account for 80% of the sector’s total income yet make up only 3% of the total number of charities.
  • In turn organisations with an income of £100,000 or less make up 82% of the sector in terms of the number of charities, but account for less than 5% of the total income. A similar pattern is seen with expenditure.
Proportion of voluntary organisations in the UK by number, income and spending, 2014/15 (%)
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2014/15 saw an increase in the very largest charities

  • The majority of the sector continues to consist of small organisations.
  • However, in 2013/14 there was a notable rise in the number of organisations with an income over £100m, this number slightly increased again in 2014/15.
Number of Super-major organisations, 2008/09 to 2014/15
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Most of the UK’s largest charities, by income, are organisations that work nationally or internationally

  • They are predominantly charities that focus on health (including health research), children, disability or international relief. Save the Children International is the UK’s largest charity.
Ten largest general charities in England and Wales by income, 2014/15 (£m)
NameIncome (£m)
Save the Children International699
Cancer Research UK629
National Trust496
Oxfam401
The Save the Children Fund374
Wellcome Trust338
Barnardo's296
British Heart Foundation288
The British Red Cross Society265
Marie Stopes International245
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Activities of voluntary organisations

  • The most common charitable activity of voluntary organisations by both number of charities and spending was social service provision, followed by culture and recreation.
Number of organisations and spending (£m) by activity type, 2014/15
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  • The largest organisations were most likely to be either umbrella bodies or involved in health.
  • Apart from parent teacher associations, voluntary organisations involved in social service provision were most likely to be micro organisations.
Activity type of voluntary organisations by size of organisation (%)
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UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 / The Voluntary Sector /Sector overview

Published: 24-04-2017 / Tagged:

https://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac17/size-and-scope-2/