Sponsor’s Foreword

Cazenove Charities is pleased to sponsor the 17th edition of the NCVO Almanac. Since its launch, the Almanac has provided strong evidence of the significant contribution made by the voluntary sector. This year’s edition therefore serves as an important reminder of the depth, breadth and impact of the sector, at a time when its credentials are being […]

Executive summary

Sir Stuart Etherington Chief Executive, NCVO   Welcome to the NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac 2018, the essential resource for data, trends and insights on the sector. Whatever your reasons for reaching for this publication – whether you work for a charity, in finance, or are a researcher or a civil servant – I hope […]


The UK Civil Society Almanac is now in its 17th edition. It brings together data from charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys to provide a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector. In so doing it offers invaluable insights into the ways in which the sector is experiencing growth and […]

What is civil society

Civil society has been defined in many ways: as the associational life that brings people together and allows civic values and skills to develop as a set of values associated with the ‘good society’ which aims for social, economic and political progress as a space where debate and deliberation allows the negotiation of the common […]

Income and spending

Income Civil society organisations have an estimated combined annual income of £200.1bn Voluntary organisations make up the largest part of civil society in financial terms, accounting for the largest share of income with £47.8bn. Universities (£30.7bn), employee owned businesses (£30bn), and co-operatives (£23.9bn) are the other major sectors in terms of income. Largest organisations Spending […]


Civil society organisations control substantial assets with an estimated value of £292.5bn. This figure largely consists of fixed assets such as property and investments. It also includes some cash deposits, but excludes the assets of financial services industries (e.g. building societies, credit unions, and friendly societies and mutual insurers), which is mostly comprised of customer […]


Civil society organisations exist to support a wide range of beneficiary groups, not just UK residents but people across the world. They also support many other causes that might directly or indirectly affect an individual’s life. This makes counting and describing the beneficiaries of civil society challenging. From records of organisations that publish beneficiary data, […]


Civil society organisations are major employers in the UK with an estimated 2.3 million people employed as paid staff. This is equivalent to 7% of the total UK workforce in 2014 – more than the workforce of the NHS, the UK’s single largest employer (1.5 million employees), and same as for the construction industry (2.2 million […]


Overview This section draws on many different data sources, including Co-operatives UK, the Building Society Association, the Department for Education, and many more. The data for most civil society organisations is for the financial year 2013/14, except for the data on general charities, which is for 2015/16. To our knowledge, this represents the most up-to-date […]

Fast facts

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

Size and scope

Overview There were 166,001 voluntary organisations in the UK in 2015/16 Our analysis of the sector is based on our “general charities” definition (see methodology) that allows comparison of figures from year to year. Under our definition there were 166,001 voluntary organisations in 2015/16, comparable to last year (165,801) and slightly less than in 2013/14 […]

Finance Overview

Highlights The sector’s total income increased by £1.6bn (4%) to £47.8bn in 2015/16. The increase in total income was largely due to the increase in income from individuals. 52% of the sector’s income comes from major and super-major organisations. The sector’s spending stood at £46.5bn accounting for 97% of total income. Spending on charitable activities […]

Economic value

Highlights The voluntary sector contributed £15.3bn in 2015/16, representing around 0.8% of total GDP. The contribution of the voluntary sector has increased since 2014/15 and is now similar to the GDP of Estonia. The sector employs approximately 880,000 people in June 2017, also an increase from 2016. The value of formal volunteering was estimated at […]


Highlights Voluntary organisations are not distributed evenly throughout the UK, with over 80% in England. England has 2.4 organisations per 1000 people, fewer than in Scotland and Northern Ireland which have 3.6 and 3.3 per 1,000 people respectively. Half of all English charities are based in the three regions of the south. English charities generate […]


Highlights Organisations that have children and young people as their beneficiaries are the most common. Service provision was the most common function of voluntary organisations by number of organisations. 94% of people say they, or their friends or family, have interacted with charities. The percentage of organisations with an income over £100m working overseas has […]

Volunteering overview

Highlights 11.9 million people formally volunteered once a month in 2016/17. Levels of formal volunteering in 2016/17 stood at 37% for irregular volunteering and 22% for regular volunteering. For informal volunteering, 52% were volunteering irregularly and 27% of people volunteering regularly in 2016/17. It is very difficult to judge whether these levels have changed over […]

Volunteer Profiles

Highlights People aged 26-34 years old are the least likely to formally volunteer with only 15% volunteering once a month versus 22% overall. Women are slightly more likely to take part in any form of volunteering but informal volunteering in particular. People from higher socio-economic background and well-educated backgrounds are more likely to volunteer. Volunteering […]

Volunteering activities

Highlights 57% of the people who volunteer formally do so with a sports club or group, making them the most popular organisations. Fundraising and running events are the most popular volunteering activities of formal volunteers, with 44% organising or helping to run an event or activity and 40% being involved in raising money. Nearly one […]

Motivations and barriers to volunteering

Highlights Improving things and helping others is the most prominent reason why people get involved – 49% of people say that is why they volunteer. People get most often involved in groups or organisations they have a personal connection with – 48% knew someone who was already involved in the group. Most people stop volunteering […]


Highlights The voluntary sector workforce increased by 4% between June 2016 and June 2017. Between June 2016 and June 2017, the proportion of men working for the voluntary sector increased from 35% to 37%, confirming a trend that started in September 2014. 59% of the sector’s employees work in social care, health and education. EU […]

Income sources

  Overview Earned income accounts for over half of the sector’s total income Types of income Earned income totalled £24.8bn in 2015/16, accounting for over half (52%) of the sector’s total income in 2015/16. Voluntary income amounted to £19.6bn and investment income to £3.4bn. Sources of income The sector receives 79% of its funding from […]

Income from individuals

Highlights Individuals are the largest source of voluntary income, and account for almost half of the sector’s total income (£22.3bn out of £47.8bn). Earned income from individuals accounted for a quarter of the sector’s total income and over half of total income from individuals. Income from individuals continued to grow in 2015/16 and increased by […]

Income from government

Highlights The amount of income from government decreased slightly in 2015/16, after having increased over the previous two years. The proportion of total voluntary sector income coming from government has decreased, from 34% to 32%. Funding from central government has decreased while increasing for local government. The social services subsector continues to receive the largest […]


Highlights In 2015/16 the voluntary sector’s total spending amounted to £46.5bn, which is an increase of £2.6bn from 2014/15. The sector spends 97% of its income. Since 2014/15, spending on charitable activities has increased by 8%, which is partly due to organisations now reporting governance costs as part of the charitable activities. Spending was highest […]

Raising funds

Highlights Since 2000/01, spending on raising funds has increased slowly, both in terms of total amount and as a proportion of total spending. Super major organisations spent the largest proportion on investment management (18%) followed by the small and micro organisations (13%). The research (23%), environment (19%), health (18%), and culture and recreation (18%) subsectors […]

Grant making

Highlights Over 25,000 organisations spend money on making grants, representing 17% of the sector. The amount spent on grant making (£6.5bn) has remained stable since last year. The ten largest grant-makers account for 30% of all grants made. Super-major organisations spend the most on grants, both in monetary terms (£2.1bn) and as a proportion of […]

Assets and reserves

Highlights Assets The sector’s net assets are worth £121.3bn. 87% of assets are held by 3% of voluntary organisations. 57% of the sector’s funds are unrestricted. The net worth of the sector now stands at more than it was prior to the financial crisis. The sector’s reserves have increased by 5% since last year. Get […]


Highlights In 2015/16, the voluntary sector had total liabilities of £19.2bn of which 10% were pension liabilities. Liabilities have been increasing since 2012/13 but have not yet returned to the level they were at in 2011/12. The sector’s net pension deficit has increased from £1.5bn in 2010/11 to £2.0bn in 2015/16. Almost two-third (59%) of […]


Highlights The sector’s investment assets were collectively worth £91.9bn, generated £3.4bn worth of income and cost £0.5bn to manage in 2015/16. 86% of super-major organisations’ fixed assets are investment assets, compared to 62% for micro and small organisations. Since 2011/12, investment assets have increased slowly and return on investment has stayed stable. The return on […]


Voluntary sector definition As in previous Almanacs, the ‘general charities’ definition is used to obtain estimates for the voluntary sector. The definition is based on common features of non-profit organisations and was originally constructed to also fit Office for National Statistics (ONS) national accounting purposes. Included in the ‘general charities’ definition are those registered charities that […]

Scope data

Number of UK voluntary organisations by country, 2015/16 Distribution of voluntary organisations and their financial characteristics by region and UK country, 2015/16 Distribution of voluntary organisations and their financial characteristics by area of activity, 2015/16

Income data

Voluntary sector income by size of organisation, 2015/16 (£m) Voluntary sector income source by size of organisation, 2015/16 (£m) Voluntary sector income, 2002/03 to 2015/16 (£m)* * data download contains all years

Assets data

Voluntary sector assets and liabilities by size of organisation, 2015/16 (£m) Voluntary sector funds by size of organisation, 2015/16 (£m) Voluntary sector assets and liabilities, 2000/01 to 2015/16 (£m, 2015/16 prices)* * data download contains all years

Small charities: Key findings from our data

21/01/2019 As a membership body, NCVO supports charities of all sizes. This is reflected in our practical training offers, our strategic partnerships, our policy work and in the research we do. Last month, we published some analysis on Britain’s largest charities. This month we look at organisations with an income below £100,000. This blog summarises what […]

What we know about Britain’s biggest charities

05/12/2018 Each year, when we publish the Civil Society Almanac, we focus on answering top-level questions. For example: how many people volunteer? how much income do charities receive from the public? But there are plenty of other areas that are worth exploring in more depth. With that in mind, we have been taking a closer look at […]

New volunteering data out today

29/07/2018 This morning the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published the latest results from its Community Life Survey. This survey provides the most reliable data on volunteering rates in England. This blog presents some of the key findings from the 2017/18 data. Overall levels of volunteering are stable Today’s data shows that […]

Are EU staff leaving the charity sector?

04/06/2018 One of the things we noticed when compiling our UK Civil Society Almanac – the authoritative resource on the sector’s finances – was a notable drop in European staff working in the sector. The number of European staff fell by a dramatic 20% – or 7,800 individuals – between June 2016 and June 2017, […]

Almanac 2018: What does the data tell us?

09/05/2018 The NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac is a rich source of information on the voluntary sector. To be as complete and accurate as possible, we bring together: data from charities’ accounts, the Charity Commission’s open data, and national surveys. We publish our research findings on: our website, a summary publication (forthcoming), and an animated […]

Why people volunteer and why they stop – what the latest data tells us

22/03/2018 The UK Civil Society Almanac provides a comprehensive overview of the UK voluntary sector with a lot of information on finance, workforce and volunteering. Ahead of the Almanac 2018 launch in May, we’re giving a sneak preview of the latest data on motivations and barriers to volunteering. People get into volunteering to do good […]

Almanac 2017 animations: Top facts about the charity sector and volunteering

19/02/2018 Are you looking for the top facts on the charity sector and volunteering? Then browse through our short, bit-sized animations for the Almanac 2017: all the headlines in just a few seconds. Top facts about the voluntary sector Top facts about income Top facts about workforce Top facts about volunteering

Don’t take it for granted: Five lessons learned from the data on grant making in the UK

19/10/2017 We know from the Almanac 2014/15 that grants to the voluntary sector represent a total of £6.3bn, which is 14% of the total income of the sector. Most granted money (93%) comes from other voluntary organisations (47%) or the government (46%). Despite its importance to the sector, the proportion of the money given out in […]

Getting involved: How people make a difference

13/12/2017 In November we launched our publication Getting Involved: How people make a difference (pdf, 3.4MB), which is part of our Almanac series of publications that aim to improve understanding of civil society and inform current debates. Drawing on data from a wide range of sources and full of the latest statistics, this new publication […]

Five numbers that describe the European Union workforce in the UK voluntary sector

25/09/2017 The UK Civil Society Almanac presents each year information on the voluntary sector workforce using data from the Labour Force Survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Following the referendum in June 2016, we thought we’d take a look at the numbers and proportions of European Union nationals working in the UK voluntary […]

A changing funding landscape for charities involved in criminal justice

31/07/2017 This month, Clinks launched their State of The Sector report which looks at how voluntary organisations working in criminal justice are doing. This year the report is based on NCVO research comprising an analysis of financial accounts of such organisations based on the NCVO Almanac data set, as well as a survey and follow […]

Almanac webinar on key findings and policy implications

27/07/2017 In July NCVO ran a webinar exploring the key findings and policy implications coming out of the 2017 UK Civil Society Almanac data. A recording of the webinar is now available and can be watched here, as well as on this page below. The webinar focused on four key themes : Income and spending in the […]

Top facts about small charities

21/06/2017 It’s Small Charity Week – time to recognise and reflect on the work of smaller charities. We have summarised what we know about small charities, including who they are, what they do and how their are funded. What data do we have for small charities? There is not one definition of small charities. The […]

The Children and Young People’s Voluntary Sector

08/02/2017 Once again, we have produced a financial analysis of the children and young people’s voluntary sector in England, based on Almanac data from 2013/14. Within the report, we analysed two populations: The ‘core’ population – Organisations for whom children and young people are the primary beneficiaries. The ‘wider’ population – Organisations for whom children […]

Interactive visualisations of Almanac data

29/07/2016 We are always exploring new ways to communicate Almanac data, such as our recent animated videos, available here for the 2016 edition. Currently our charts (although downloadable) are mostly static, which limits the amount of information that we can include in any one graphic. Therefore here we have experimented with presenting some of the data […]

A focus on small charities

17/06/2016 It’s Small Charity Week and time to recognise and reflect on the work of smaller charities. A recent report published by IPPR North highlighted the importance of small charities in wider society, arguing that they are most likely to be rooted and embedded in communities, often engaging with local problems and the hardest to […]