NCVO 2017 UK Civil Society Almanac: An overview

Jack Egan, Researcher at NCVO

NCVO launched the 16th edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac in May. For those not familiar with the Almanac, it is a website and publication that provides a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector. It does this by drawing upon data from various sources including charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys. I will highlight some general findings below and then dive into some of the areas that are important for grant makers and foundations.

The UK voluntary sector is broad and diverse
The UK voluntary sector is made up of around 166,000 voluntary organisations, it employs a paid workforce of 853,000 people and benefits from 14.2 million regular volunteers. Voluntary organisations operate across many fields, with children and young people being the most common beneficiary group. Most organisations are small and operate locally, however the majority of the sector’s income is concentrated within larger organisations. The sector contributes £12.2bn to the economy, equivalent to 0.7% of UK GDP. We have produced a short video which acts as a great summary and can be viewed here.

The government funding landscape is changing
One of the most interesting findings of this year’s Almanac involved the split between funding from central and local government. In 2014/15, for the first time in a decade income from central government (£7.3bn) is higher than income from local government (£7.1bn). Declining income from local government is likely to affect smaller organisations who operate locally more than others and reiterates the important role grant makers have in terms funding these smaller organisations.

In 2014/15 the sector’s income from government was £15.3bn, representing 2% of total government spending. The government made grants worth £2.9bn to voluntary organisations, however the gap between this and government contracts remained large, with £12.4bn of income from government coming as contracts. At our launch event, Rosie Ferguson (CEO of Gingerbread) noted that commissioning and tendering process is becoming increasingly complex and more tailored to larger organisations. Furthermore, contracts often do not include space for evaluation or innovation which are crucial for capacity building, particularly in smaller charities.

Voluntary sector grant making continues to be important
The voluntary sector spent £6.4bn on grants in 2014/15, with over half of this spending going to other voluntary sector organisations (54%). International voluntary organisations received the largest share of these grants (38%), followed by social service organisations (16%). A relatively small number of grant makers continue to account for a large proportion of grants made. The top ten grant makers account for more than a quarter of all grants made (26%).

Diversifying income sources is key to sustainability
Charities are becoming less dependent on grants and contract income. More than half (56%) of the increase in the sector’s income over the last two years occurred in income from individuals. It is earned income from individuals driving that growth. It now amounts to £10.5bn, representing 51% of all income from individuals. Charging for services or selling new products gives charities extra an extra income source and helps to make them more sustainable in the medium to long term.

This is just a small selection of the information and data that the Almanac provides. Please visit data.ncvo.org.uk for more.

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