How many voluntary organisations are there?
In 2018/19 there were 163,150 voluntary organisations in the UK, with the majority being micro and small
- Our analysis of the voluntary sector is based on our ‘general charities’ definition that allows us to compare figures from year to year. Under that definition there were 163,150 voluntary organisations in the UK in 2018/19.
- As trends often vary for organisations of different sizes, the Almanac groups organisations into six different income bands (see table below).
- Smaller organisations made up the vast majority (80%) of the sector. They include micro organisations, those with an income under £10,000, and small organisations with an income between £10,000 and £100,000.
- Between 2000/01 and 2003/04 the overall number of voluntary organisations grew substantially. This was followed by a period of relative stability until the economic recession in 2008, when numbers fell by 4% between 2007/08 and 2009/10. The number of organisations remained at those levels but rose again in 2013/14 and remained stable until 2018/19 when it decreased to its smallest size since 2012/13.
- Some of the growth in larger organisations is linked to a natural expansion of income bands due to inflation. For instance, an organisation with an income of £90,000 in 2000/01 would have an income of about £152,100 in 2018/19, which would move this organisation from the small income band to the medium income band. Similarly, if we view from today’s prices, an organisation that had an income of £100m in 2018/19 would only have to make £59m in 2000/01 for it to be a comparable organisation in terms of income. Therefore, to talk about how the makeup of the sector has changed over time, in terms of income bands, we would need to change the boundaries of each band for each year. After this is done, we see that the makeup of the sector has changed little over time, though there has been a slight decline recently in the proportion of micro and small organisations.
Income by size
- Voluntary organisations with an annual income of over £1m accounted for 82% of the sector’s total income in 2018/19, the same as the previous year, yet they made 4% of the total number of voluntary organisations. There were just over 6,000 of them.
- At the other end of the scale, the vast majority of voluntary organisations (80%) had an income of £100,000 or less. Their combined income accounted for around 4% of the sector’s total income.
- A similar pattern is seen with spending and assets. Organisations with an income over £1m accounted for more than 81% of the sector’s total spending and 87% of its total assets.
There are fewer organisations with an income over £1m but they make up more than four-fifths of the sector’s income
- In 2018/19, the number of the biggest organisations continued to grow. The number of super-major organisations – those with an income over £100m – stands at 59, up from 56 in 2017/18. The number of major organisations – those with an income between £10m and £100m – has grown by 4% from 695 to 736.
- There are now four super-major organisations in Scotland, up from two in 2017/18.
There were 59 super-major organisations in 2018/19, up from 56 the previous year
Putting it into context
When considering the total number of voluntary organisations by size over time, it is important to remember that the changes shown are the net change in numbers, as illustrated for super-major organisations.
In any particular year, a number of new voluntary organisations are registered, some are closed, and for others the annual income has changed to the extent that they have moved to another income band.
Therefore, some trends in terms of numbers and financials are affected by the movement of organisations between income bands. For more information see the reports listed below that unpick some of the financial trends for organisations of different sizes in more detail.
More data and research
- Download more Almanac data
- Read our research briefing on super-major organisations, unpicking trends for the largest organisations in more detail
- Have a look at research looking at income trajectories carried out by TSRC at the university of Birmingham
- See our Navigating Change report on the financial trends for small and medium-sized organisations commissioned by the Lloyds Bank Foundation
- Check out the IPPR’s Too small to fail report exploring how small and medium-sized charities are adapting to change and challenges
- Have a look at the Value of Small research exploring the distinctive features of small charities
Notes and definitions
Voluntary sector definition
The Almanac analysis is based on ‘general charities’, which includes most but not all (83%) of organisations registered with the Charity Commission and recognised as charitable in law.
As discussed in the section on the definition of the voluntary sector, general charities exclude a number of registered charities that do not meet our criteria, for example, non-departmental public bodies, housing associations or universities.
Micro and small organisations
The categories of micro organisations (income of less than £10,000) and small organisations (income of £10,000–£100,000) are used in the sampling and checking stages of our work on the Almanac dataset but are combined for analysis purposes, since there are too few micro organisations in the sample to provide separate estimates.
We used a RPIX conversion rate of 1.69 (April 2019).