UK charities and our society

UK charities and our society

The UK Civil Society Almanac, published annually by NCVO, provides a comprehensive overview of the charity sector.


The UK boasts a strong and vibrant civil society.

Charities are at the heart of that.

And that core is incredibly diverse.

The UK Civil Society Almanac, published annually by NCVO, provides a comprehensive overview of the sector.

Let’s take a look…

There are almost 163,000 charities in the UK, with a total income approaching £44 billion.

Charities contribute around £12.2 billion to the UK economy – similar to the size of the agriculture sector.

This is driven by an army of volunteers; 2 in 5 adults have volunteered at least once in the last year; that’s 22 million people, with 14 million of those volunteering at least once a month. 

827,000 people work for charities – that’s 3% of the UK workforce.

Larger, well-known charities tend to work nationally and overseas, but the vast majority of charities are small and work in their local area.

Charities fulfil their missions in a range of ways: mobilising social action, advocating for good causes, and providing services and support. More charities work with children and young people than any other group.

Over half of the sector’s income goes to 621 charities with an annual income over £10 million, but 80,000 charities have an income under £10,000.

Traditionally, charities funded their work through donations and grants. However, over the last decade charities earned more of their income; 55 pence out of every £1 in income now comes from providing services or trading.

Charities’ biggest source of income is individuals who provide over £19bn in donations, legacies and fees. This has risen nearly every year since 2000.

£15bn of income comes from working with government. From 2000 to 2010 this income increased, largely driven by the voluntary sector delivering more contracts, with fewer grants. However, in line with reductions to public spending, charities now receive less from government than they did in 2010.

In the latest year income from government increased slightly but this increase was seen almost entirely in the largest charities.

The rest of the sector’s income is from the voluntary and private sectors, the National Lottery and investments.

85% of charities’ spending goes directly towards charitable activities and grants, with the remainder helping to raise funds for organisations to spend on their charitable aims.

So there we have it.

UK charities boast an army of volunteers and staff, provide much needed help and support to individuals and communities nationally and overseas, and make a significant contribution to our society.

To find out more about the sector, visit: