What is the UK Civil Society Almanac about?

The UK Civil Society Almanac, published annually by NCVO, is the definitive reference publication for anybody interested in the voluntary sector, and its role in civil society. Widely cited by the media, it is used extensively by sector leaders and policy makers.

Background

First published in 1996, the Almanac gives an overview of the voluntary sector’s scope and characteristics, including its finances, workforce, and volunteering.

It draws upon a unique historical dataset based on charity annual reports and accounts from the year 2000/01 onwards, plus data and evidence from a range of government and sector research including the Community Life Survey and the Labour Force Survey.

The Almanac dataset was developed in partnership with the Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham, using data from the Charity Commission and a representative sample of charity accounts. Data for Scotland is provided by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), and for Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA).

The Almanac is based on the definition of ‘general charities’ developed by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to capture the voluntary sector’s contribution to GDP for the National Accounts. In 2008, we expanded the remit of the Almanac to cover a broader range of civil society organisations. However, the current edition of the Almanac still focuses on the voluntary sector because of challenges around data availability and quality for organisations that are not registered charities.

Aims and objectives

The publication of the Almanac is part of a wider programme of work at NCVO that aims to provide the best data and insights on the sector to voluntary organisations, infrastructure organisations, policy makers, funders and academic and non-academic researchers.

The overall objectives of the programme are to:

  • Develop and update our existing core dataset and improve our approach to covering wider civil society
  • Generate new insights, based on the dataset and other relevant data sources
  • Explore ways to improve and make more efficient the processes involved in producing the dataset, making the most of data science tools and applications
  • Design and promote a range of activities to communicate the research findings of the programme.

How is the Almanac used?

  • On our website, anybody can access and download the data of all Almanac charts and tables to strengthen business plans and strategies, funding bids, consultation responses, and presentations.
  • We undertake further analysis throughout the year which we publish in various forms, including research briefings, reports, blogs, and social media content.
  • We also undertake bespoke research based on our financial data for a range of voluntary organisations as well as public and private bodies, and collaborate with academic researchers.

Acknowledgements

The Almanac would not be possible without the contribution of the following people and organisations:

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESCR), Irene Fernow
  • Cazenove Charities, Kate Rogers and Emily Petersen
  • Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis, Queens University, Elaine Reid and Anthony Anderson
  • Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, Professor John Mohan
  • SCVO, Ilse Mackinnon
  • NICVA, Helena McElhinney
  • Office for National Statistics, Heledd Jones
  • David Kane, independent consultant
  • Data Design, Karen Mulvee

The authors of this year’s Almanac are:

  • Lisa Hornung
  • Oliver Chan
  • Joy Dobbs
  • Véronique Jochum
  • Marc Lawson
  • Amy McGarvey
  • Keeva Rooney

The Almanac relies on the input and expertise of staff across NCVO, particularly Rob Brennan, Elizabeth Chamberlain, Fiona Clark, John Davies, Myles Kunzli, Hollie McKee, Clarissa Waldron, Andrew Walkey, Rosie Walworth, Aidan Warner, Karl Wilding and Paul Winyard.

A special thanks goes out to the NCVO digital communications team, in particular Sophie Raeburn, for developing the new Almanac website, and the agencies involved in the process, including Torchbox, Text Matters and Neon Tribe.

About NCVO

With over 14,500 members, NCVO is the largest membership body for the voluntary sector in England. It supports voluntary organisations (as well as social enterprises and community interest companies), from large national bodies to community groups working at a local level. NCVO believes its members, and those with a stake in civil society, need the best quality evidence base to help them inform policy and practice, and plan for the future.