New charities on the block

The Register of Charities has changed a lot over the last few years, particularly changes from the Charities Act 2006 in regard to which charities that are eligible for registration. It’s particularly pertinent when looking at articles like this – where accountant Chris Harris himself says:

“We’ve seen universities come onto the register in recent years. We’ve also seen the creation of large new charities that were previously government bodies. We don’t know how that might affect the total.”

So, what are the big changes to the register over the last years, and what impact have they had? I’ve concentrated on the top 100 charities (by income) that were registered in the last five years, and picked out some of the key groups:


As Chris mentions, this is the biggest group. It’s split into two main areas: Welsh universities, and colleges of Oxford and Cambridge universities, though there are also some English registered universities like the private University of Buckingham.

I found six Welsh universities in the top 100, all with incomes over £30 million. The biggest by far is Cardiff University – it’s latest income is £425 million, making it one of the ten biggest charities in England and Wales. Its income alone could account for a fifth of the total increase between 2011 and 2012 financial years.

For those of you with a dog in this particular boat race, you might be pleased or disappointed to know that Cambridge comes out on top in financial terms in the battle of Oxbridge. Each Oxford and Cambridge College is registered separately (I’ve started a spreadsheet for them) and by far the biggest is Trinity College Cambridge, with a latest income of £60m. In all, 13 Oxbridge colleges make the top 100 new charities in the last five years.


A second major change is religious organisations, some of which again could register for the first time. The biggest of these is the Church Commissioners for England – one of the largest bodies in the Church of England. With income of £148m and assets of over £5 billion it’s a big addition to the register.

Other religious bodies have also registered for the first time; the Methodist Church and the Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth Generalate (more commonly called the Sisters of Nazareth) are two examples.

Independent Schools and Academies

While many independent schools have been on the register for a while, there were always two notable exceptions. The newly registered “Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton Besyde Windesore” (more commonly know as Eton College – spelling is obviously not a strong point of their curriculum) and “The Warden and Scholars of St Mary College of Winchester” (Winchester College) fill in those gaps.

Many academies also registered as charities in the last five years, with the biggest registrations coming from organisations which run groups of academies (eg the Academies Enterprise Trust). The curious thing about these charities is that they are now all no longer on the register – while the decision initially was that these organisations should be registered charities, this was later rethought by the DfE and they were removed from the register (though they remain charities in law).


These big groups cover nearly half of the big 100 new charities over the last five years, but there are others. A notable grouping is charities that have formed as the result of mergers (Age UK being the biggest example) or a reregistration of an existing charity (the biggest being the MS Society).

Housing is another category – sometimes housing organisations like Arms Length Management Organisations register as charities – the biggest recent one is Bolton at Home.

One notable omission from the list are new government bodies or quangos. There are some organisations connected to the government – the British Museum Trust – but nothing on the scale of existing organisations like the British Council or the Arts Council.

In the spirit of open data, I’ve put all the data I used for this blog online (and as a CSV file). All the data used is from the Charity Commission register of charities, and is used under the Open Government Licence. You can also find my list of Oxford and Cambridge colleges registered as charities here – please update it if you know any of the missing ones.

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David Kane was formerly NCVO’s Senior Research Officer. He discusses open data and emerging trends in the voluntary and community sector and wider civil society.

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