NCVO 2018 Almanac - A Response

18 May 2018 | By Cause4 staff

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has released its 2018 Civil Society Almanac. First published in 1996, the resource gives an overview of the British voluntary sector, including its finances, workforce and volunteering, as well as long term trends in the sector.

Below are the nine key points taken from the 2018 edition:


  1. The majority of organisations are small – 64% of the 166,000 voluntary organisations in the UK have incomes below £25,000 a year.
  2. The sector’s activities are diverse and widespread – 94% of people say they or people they know have interacted with a charity, and the largest subsectors in terms of income are social services (22%), culture and recreation (12%), health (11%) and international (11%). The charity sector as a whole spends 97% of its total income.
  3. The sector’s economy is dominated by larger charities – the sector’s overall income continues to grow, standing at £47.8bn in 2015/16, over half of which is generated by the largest charities, accounting for only 0.4% of organisations.
  4. Individual income is continuing to grow – it makes up nearly 50% of the sector’s overall income, in 2015/16 it increased by 7% to £22.3bn, and over half of this growth was driven by a rise in earned income, that is to say the income a charity gains from business activity such as providing goods or services.
  5. Government funding decreased slightly – funding from this source decreased from £15.5bn to £15.3bn in 2015/16, making up around a third of the sector’s income.
  6. The sector’s net worth is higher than it was before the financial crisis – its net assets increased to £121.3bn, which is more than in 2008/09, and 87% of these are held by 3% of voluntary organisations.
  7. In 2017, the sector’s workforce increased by 4% to 88,556 – although it is important to remember the charity sector’s workforce is significantly larger than this, due to the many charities that count on a significant amount of volunteers to carry out their work, such as Marie Curie which had 4,274 staff to 9,600 volunteers in 2016/17, and the many small charities which are entirely volunteer led.
  8. Many people in the UK volunteer – in 2016/17 one in five people volunteered formally (with an organisation) at least once a month, and more than one in three volunteered at least once a year.
  9. The sector contributes to the British economy – in 2015, the estimated value of volunteering was £22.6bn, and in 2015/16 the voluntary sector contributed around £15.3bn to the UK economy.

There are two aspects of the 2018 Almanac findings that stood out to me. The first is that the sector spends 97% of its income, showing that whilst some charities may have faced financial scandal, the vast majority of the sector is working incredibly hard for the public benefit. I hope research like this eases the mind of those who are suspicious of the sector as a whole and shows that many people working in the voluntary sector are passionate, caring and determined.

The second, and main takeaway as somebody that works for a champion of small charities, is the disparity between large and small organisations. Whilst it is encouraging that the sector’s income and net worth is continuously increasing at a time when government funding is slowly decreasing, there remains a clear division of wealth between large and small organisations.

This will largely always be the case, however I would like to use this opportunity as a call to action to small charities to continue their invaluable work, and to the general public not to overlook them and go to the big names, but to seek out local organisations who might be doing great work and who could also benefit from your support – be that money, time, expertise, or anything else you have to give!

Here at Cause4 we celebrate all charitable successes, however as a champion of small charities we would like you to share with us your favourite account of a small charity doing great work. A fantastic opportunity to advocate for and celebrate small charities is the upcoming 2018 Small Charities Week, which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector. This makes an invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world.

We can think of many small charities doing fantastic work – can you?

Tweet us as @OfficialCause4 and let us know.

(Main cover Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash)

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