UK Civil Society Almanac 2019: The latest data on the voluntary sector and volunteering

Today we’re launching the 2019 edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac, our comprehensive overview of facts and figures related to the voluntary sector. This year, in addition to giving a detailed overview of voluntary organisations’ finances, we have expanded our coverage of their overall value and contribution, their workforce and volunteering.

We have also redesigned the Almanac website, making it easier to explore our findings in detail, and made more data tables available for everyone to access.

Here is a summary of the key trends from the latest data.

The public and government remain the largest income sources for the sector, however in 2016/17 overall growth was driven by grants and investments

In 2016/17, the voluntary sector’s economy continued to grow. Total income went up by 2% to £50.6bn, while spending and assets also increased. The public and government remain the largest income sources for voluntary organisations, but income from both of them has plateaued. Growth in total income was instead due to increases in grants (£588.8m) and investments (£602.6m).

The way in which the sector receives money from the public is showing signs of change

The public remains the largest income source for the sector, accounting for 45% (£22.9bn) of its total income. For the first time in six years, there was a fall in earned income from the public, generated through fees paid for goods and services, membership subscriptions, sales from charity shops or fundraising events. At the same time, donations fell slightly by 2% from the previous year while legacies continued to rise.

The amount of income from government remained stable but has fallen as a proportion

Government remains the second largest income source, totalling £15.8bn. Over the last four years the amount of income from government has remained fairly stable, but it has fallen as a proportion of total income. It made up 37% of the total income in 2009/10 but dropped to 31% in 2016/17.

A good year for grant making

In 2016/17, spending on grants grew by 5% to a new record high of £7bn. Over half (57%) of the money spent on grants stays within the voluntary sector, but notable amounts also go to individuals and other types of organisations like public sector bodies and universities. International development organisations receive by far the largest share (37%) of grant making from the sector.

The voluntary sector workforce is highly educated and less likely to experience skills gaps

The number of people working in the voluntary sector fell slightly compared to the previous year, but has grown by 11% since 2010. In 2018, a total number of 865,916 people worked for voluntary organisations. More than half of the sector’s workforce is educated to degree level or higher. At the same time, voluntary organisations reported the lowest incidence of skills gaps compared to organisations in other sectors.

Volunteering rates are stable, but diversity remains an issue

Overall levels of volunteering have remained stable. More than one in five people volunteered at least once a month for a group, club or organisation. However, involvement varies for different backgrounds: formal volunteers are more likely to be older, well-educated and from higher socio-economic groups.

The reach and impact of voluntary organisations is wide-ranging

Nine in ten UK households have accessed services provided by voluntary organisations at some point, with children and young people remaining the most common beneficiary group. In 2016/17, the sector contributed a total of £17.1bn to the UK economy, equivalent to the GDP of a small country such as Honduras. The value of volunteering was estimated at £23.9bn in 2016.

More facts and figures

For more data and analysis, you can have a look at our new website and download the data.

If you are an NCVO member, you can also go to the NCVO member’s area where you’ll have access to

This year’s Almanac is supported by Cazenove Charities.

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Avatar photo Lisa Hornung is a data and research manager in the research team at NCVO. She leads on the data collection, analysis and communication of the UK Civil Society Almanac. More widely, she helps to ensure that NCVO remains at the forefront of voluntary sector data collection and analysis.

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