What does the new UK Civil Society Almanac tell us?

Today is a big day for the NCVO research team; we’re launching the 16th edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac.

The Almanac, for those who have not yet had the opportunity to use 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, and is full of information on a range of topics including finance, workforce and volunteering.

It’s a publication (every NCVO member gets a copy for free), but also a website [data.ncvo.org.uk] and a programme of work providing additional analysis and insights all year round.

This year, a number of key findings stood out for us.

Increases in income and spending seen in 2013/14 have continued in 2014/15

After adjusting for inflation, the voluntary sector’s income increased by just under £1.2bn to £45.5bn and spending stood at £43.3bn in 2014/15, an increase of £0.8bn from 2013/14. However, in both cases, the increase is smaller than the one between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Larger organisations have experienced the biggest increases in income

The sector’s economy is dominated by larger charities: organisations with an 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. It is the income of these organisations (particularly the super-major organisations with an income of over £100m) that increased the most in 2014/15.

Income from individuals is driving the increase in total income for the sector

More than half (56%) of the increase in the sector’s income over the last two years occurred in income from individuals. Income from individuals is the sector’s main income source, providing £20.6bn in 2014/15 (45% of total income). And it’s worth noting that earned income from individuals, including fees for services and merchandise from charity shops, is slightly higher (£10.5bn) than voluntary income from individuals through charitable donations and legacies (£10.1bn).

Income from central government is now higher than income from local government

In 2014/15, the sector received £15.3bn from government bodies, of which 81% was earned through contracts and 19% from grants. Income from government only grew by 1% but continued to move closer to the peak seen in 2009/10 (£15.7bn). While income from central government has recovered to reach a level higher than its previous peak of £7bn in 2009/10, income from local government remains around £0.8bn less than its peak in the same year.

The sector employs an increasing number of people

The voluntary sector paid workforce rose again to 853,000 in 2016, and has increased by 27% since 2004. Most voluntary sector employees (47%) work in organisations of fewer than 25 employees whilst only 6% work for large organisations of more than 500 employees.

Levels of both regular and less regular volunteering remain stable

In 2015/16, one in four people formally volunteered at least once a month, and two in five people formally volunteered at least once a year. For the whole UK population, this is the equivalent to 21.9 million people formally volunteering at least once in the last year, and 14.2 million people formally volunteering at least once a month. (A blog post focusing on the volunteering statistics from the Almanac will shortly follow).

The voluntary sector continues to make a sizeable contribution to the UK economy

In 2014/15, the voluntary sector contributed £12.2bn (GVA) to the UK economy, which is around 0.7% of total GDP. To put this amount in context, it is a little more than the GDP of Cyprus (£12.0bn) in 2015. In the same year, the estimated value of volunteering was £22.6bn.


This is just a small selection of the type of information and data that the Almanac provides. There’s plenty more on the Almanac website. Do have a look.

If you are an NCVO member, you can also go to the members’ area of the Almanac website to download:

  • a PDF of the publication
  • the presentation from the launch
  • an additional slide pack of key findings.

This year’s Almanac is supported by Cazenove Capital.


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Avatar photo Véronique Jochum, head of research, blogs about the latest research from NCVO and other research related topics on civil society.

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