Almanac 2018: What does the data tell us?

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:

This blog post explores some key findings from the rich dataset available on our website.

Large charities continue to grow

Only around 3% of all voluntary organisations have an annual income of over £1m, but these large organisations account for 81% of the sector’s total income. While the number and proportion of small organisations is decreasing, the number and proportion of large charities is increasing. In 2013/14 we decided there were enough organisations (39) with an income above £100m to create a separate category of super-major charities. Their number continues to grow; there were 45 in 2015/16, compared with 42 in 2014/15.

People are the sector’s most important source of income

Nearly half (47%) of the voluntary sector’s income comes from individuals, making them the most important source of income for voluntary organisations of all sizes, large and small.

Voluntary organisations received money from the public in two ways:

  • voluntary donations and legacies, which amounted to £10.9bn in 2015/16
  • earned income through charitable or fundraising activities, which amounted to £11.4bn.

Over the past four years income from individuals has driven the increase in the sector’s income.

Total income and income from individuals and government, 2000/01 to 2015/16 (£bn, 2015/16 prices)

Spending on charitable activities is growing

In 2015/16 the voluntary sector spent £46.5bn, which is £2.6bn more than the previous year. Of this £39.5bn was used on charitable activities, whether directly or through grants. This means that across the whole sector 85p of each £1 spent went directly to organisations’ charitable causes. Between 2014/15 and 2015/16 spending on charitable activities increased by 8% (approximately £2.5bn). A small part of this increase is due to organisations now including governance costs as part of charitable activities.

Spending breakdown by type of spending, 2000/01 to 2015/16 (£bn, 2015/16 prices)

Assets have returned to pre-recession levels

Following the financial crisis of 2008, the sector’s net asset value dropped by 20%, from £120.5bn to £96.4bn. After nine years, the sector’s net assets are worth £121.3bn, which is comparable to pre-recession levels. Reserves levels (ie savings) have also increased. While these are positive trends, the distribution of assets remains very uneven with 87% of the sector’s assets held by only 3% of organisations.

Fixed and current assets by income group, in £bn, 2015/16

Volunteers are an important and reliable resource for the sector

Just under one in four people in the UK volunteered at least once a month in 2016/17. That’s almost 12 million people. Levels of less regular volunteering are higher, with 37% of the population volunteering at least once in the last year. Volunteers give their time in a number of ways and for a broad range of causes. The most commonly-supported organisations are sports clubs or groups (57%), and the most common activities are organising or helping to run an event (44%) and raising money (40%).

Proportion of people volunteering formally, 2001 to 2016/17 (% of respondents)

The voluntary sector workforce is increasing and changing

In June 2017, the voluntary sector employed over 880,000 people – 4% more than in June 2016. The sector remains heavily female dominated, with only a third  being male. However, between June 2016 and June 2017, the proportion of men working for the voluntary sector increased from 35% to 37%, continuing the recent trend of small year-on-year increases. Since June 2016, 7,800 EU nationals have left the voluntary sector, which could be a consequence of Brexit.

Proportion of EU nationals by sector, 2009 to 2017 (%)

No room for complacency

We can and should celebrate the fact that the UK voluntary sector continues to grow, doing more than ever for the people and causes it works for. However, high-level numbers can disguise a great deal of variation in experience on the ground.

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Claire Benard Claire Benard is senior data scientist in the research team at NCVO. She collects, processes and analyses data to grow the evidence base on the sector. One major part of this is the UK Civil Society Almanac.

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