About the Almanac

The Almanac, now in its 14th edition, provides facts and figures on the voluntary sector – particularly focusing on its economy, but also including relevant data on volunteering, workforce and others. Bringing together data from charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys, the Almanac shows a dynamic sector at the heart of UK civic life and covers areas such as […]


The 2015 Civil Society Almanac once again provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of what’s happening to the voluntary sector. Using the latest data available – which is mostly drawn from the 2012/13 financial year – we describe a sector that is continuing to adapt to austerity and a recovering economy. The voluntary sector remains […]

Sponsor’s Foreword

Sarasin & Partners were delighted to be asked to sponsor this 14th edition of the NCVO Almanac. First published in 1996, the Almanac provides an invaluable source of current and historic information. After 20 years some clear trends – highlighted in the introduction – are becoming evident, and the value of a publication like this […]

Fast facts

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

Big Picture

It is a cliché that the voluntary sector’s strength lies in its diversity, but it is also true. The voluntary sector hosts a staggering array of organisations. These organisations vary in size, location, aims, motivation and activity, but they all share common characteristics that allow them to be grouped into a single “sector”. Included in […]


England has the largest number of voluntary organisations but Scotland has more relative to population On average there are 2.5 voluntary organisations per 1,000 people, or one organisation for every 400 people; however, the geographical spread of charities across the UK is uneven and complex. England has the highest number of voluntary organisations of the […]

Economic Value

The nature of the voluntary sector’s finances and the available data make it difficult to quantify the sector’s value to the wider economy. The sector’s contribution can be measured in terms of its spending, the people it employs or the contribution that volunteers make. Contribution as measured in the National Accounts The contribution of different […]

Overall finance

The total income of voluntary organisations in 2012/13 was £40.5 billion. In the same year the sector’s expenditure stood at £ 39.3 billion, accounting for 97% of the sector’s overall income. The discrepancy between income and expenditure does not necessarily imply that the sector has surplus income: capital expenditure on equipment or buildings is spread […]

Income from Government

Government is one of the two key sources of income for the voluntary sector, alongside income from individuals. Income from government comes in two main types – voluntary income (grants) and earned income (contracts or fees) – although there is a wide variety of funding models used by authorities. The definition of  government covers any […]

Income from individuals

Income from individuals comprises voluntary income (including donations and legacies) and earned income (including sales of merchandise and fees for events or services). In 2012/13, income from individuals amounted to £18.8 billion, representing 46% of the sector’s income.

Income from other sources

In addition to the main income sources (individuals and Government), voluntary organisations also receive income from other parts of the voluntary sector, the private sector, the National Lottery and from investments which account for 20% of the voluntary sector’s income. This section discusses the first three sources (see the Investment section (add link) for information […]


Voluntary sector spending broken down by activity In the fiscal year 2012/13, the voluntary sector’s total current expenditure was £39.3 billion. For the purpose of the present analysis, spending is split between four main activities: charitable activities, grant-making, the cost of generating funds and governance. Expenditure reporting is not uniform across the sector The Charities […]


Fundraising is a major activity in the voluntary sector The amount spent by the voluntary sector on generating funds in 2012/13 was £4.9 billion. Just over 80% of major and 70% of large organisations report spending on fundraising in activities that aim to generate voluntary income (donations), or in fundraising trading costs and investment management. […]

Grant making

Voluntary organisations can fulfil their charitable aims by financially supporting organisations and individuals through the giving of grants. In 2012/13, just over 28,000 voluntary organisations made grants and spent a total of £4.6 billion doing so. A small group of very large grant-makers dominate Unsurprisingly, the voluntary organisations that make the most grants are grant-making […]


The voluntary sector’s net assets stand at over £100 billion Most organisations (89%) hold some form of asset. Charities commonly use these assets, whether property or available cash, in their work or for the purpose of generating income. The sector’s total gross assets (excluding pension assets) are worth £122 billion. When liabilities of £17 billion […]

Liabilities and loans

The sector has £17bn of liabilities, just over half of which is short-term debt Liabilities are financial obligations or debts.  For accounting purposes they are commonly separated into current and long-term liabilities.  Current liabilities are payments owing in the next twelve months and might include accounts payable (where money is owed as a product or […]


Investment assets The sector’s investment assets, primarily equities, government securities, unit trusts and investment property, were collectively worth £76.6 billion in 2012/13. The voluntary sector was not immune from volatile asset prices following the financial crisis of 2008. The fall in the stock market, together with a fall in property values, dented the value of […]


Who benefits from the work of the voluntary sector? Voluntary organisations exist to assist a wide range of beneficiary groups, covering all demographic groups within the UK population and people across the world, as well as the environment. The most popular beneficiary group is children and young people (51%) followed by the general public (37%) […]


The voluntary sector is a major employer 821,000 people were employed in the voluntary sector in the UK by March 2014. This figure represents an increase of around 50,000 in the last two years. Since 2004, there has been a year-on-year increase in voluntary sector employees every year, bar a dip in 2010/2011, with a total […]

Volunteering overview

Rates of formal volunteering continue to show stability… Formal volunteering is described as giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation. In 2013/14, around two in five adults aged 16 and over reported volunteering formally at least once in the previous year. Although this represents a decrease from 2012/13, it is a return to […]

Volunteer profiles

Rates of regular formal volunteering do not vary between men and women In terms of formal volunteering in the last 12 months, the same proportion of women participated as men (both 41%), and a similar proportion volunteered regularly (27% women and 26% men). Likewise, a similar proportion of women and men volunteered informally in the […]

Volunteer activities

Sports organisations and groups attract the most volunteers Just over half (53%) of those who had formally volunteered at least once in the last 12 months had given unpaid help to groups/clubs/organisations involved in sport/exercise. Other organisations to which formal volunteers had given unpaid help included those related to hobbies/recreation/arts/social clubs (38%) and religion (33%). […]

Motivations and barriers to 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 (59%) and that the cause was important to me (40%). Less frequently mentioned reasons included: to get on in my career (10%); feeling […]

Volunteering infrastructure

The Annual Return of Volunteer Centres, undertaken by the Institute for Volunteering Research, is the best source of data on the state of the Volunteer Centre network in England. Unless otherwise stated, data in this section are drawn from the latest Annual Return, which reports on the 2012/13 financial year. This survey draws on responses […]


Voluntary sector definition As in previous Almanacs, the “general charities” definition is used within this Almanac to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector. This is to enable comparisons over time for this core part of the sector. The clear limits to the definition enable the production of robust, clearly defined estimates for both numbers of […]


Number of UK voluntary organisations by country, 2012/13
Distribution of voluntary organisations and their financial characteristics by region and UK country, 2012/13


Voluntary sector income by size of organisation, 2012/13 (£ millions)
Voluntary sector income source by size of organisation, 2012/13 (£ millions)
Voluntary sector income, 2000/01 to 2012/13 (£ millions, April 2013 prices)


Voluntary sector expenditure by size of organisation, 2012/13 (£ millions)
Voluntary sector expenditure, 2000/01 to 2012/13 (£ millions, April 2013 prices)


Voluntary sector assets and liabilities by size of organisation, 2012/13 (£ millions)
Voluntary sector funds by size of organisation, 2012/13 (£ millions)
Voluntary sector assets and liabilities, 2000/01 to 2012/13 (£ millions, April 2013 prices)