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UK charity and not-for-profit sector statistics 2024

17/01/2024

UK charity statistics show the importance that volunteers have every day for the sector

The voluntary sector in the UK is massive. Over 168,000 charities appeared on the Charity Commission’s register, as of March 2023. And between March 2023 and January 2024, another 1,000 charities have been registered.

However, the full size of the sector is unknown, since only not-for-profits with a gross annual income of £5,000 or more have to register.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many extra, unregistered charities there are in the UK. But it’s estimated there are between 80,000 and 100,000 across England and Wales.

Plus, as many as 20,000 organisations that aren't generally regarded as charities also have charitable status in the UK – like private schools, churches, and museums.

The cost of living crisis has created a huge problem for many charities. Especially small and micro charities. Rising costs, more demand for their services, and dwindling donor numbers have led to many of these important not-for-profits closing their doors in 2023.

This article looks in-depth at UK charity statistics and the state of the sector in 2024. All figures are the most up-to-date available at the time of publishing.

UK charity sector statistics & key facts

  • The UK had 168,893 registered charities in March 2023. At least another 20,000 not-for-profit organisations have charitable status but don’t feature on the register.
  • The Charity Commission received 8,583 applications to register a charity in 2022/23, 48% of which were successful. In the same period, 4,146 charities were removed from the register.
  • The total income of registered charities in 2022/23 was £88 billion.
  • In the same period, charities spent £85 billion.
  • Almost one in ten voluntary organisations reported zero income.
  • The voluntary sector contributed approximately £18bn to the UK’s economy in 2020/21, or 0.8% of GDP.
  • Micro charities and small charities (defined by an income less than £10,000, and £10,000 to £100,000 respectively) make up more than 80% of the sector.
  • Conversely, major and super-major organisations (income over £10 million) make up less than 1%.
  • Social services is the largest voluntary subsector, accounting for around a fifth of organisations. The social services subsector also contributes the most to the UK’s economy, at around £3.4bn per year.

The UK’s charity workforce

  • Figures gathered by the UK Civil Society (NVCO) show that around 925,000 people were working in the voluntary sector in 2023. That’s about 3% of the UK’s workforce.
  • Between 2011 and 2023, the voluntary sector workforce has grown by 24%, or the equivalent of about 180,000 people. Unfortunately, the sector has slightly shrunk since 2022, with a decline of around 4%.
  • In 2023, there were over 921,000 trustee positions at registered charities in the UK.
  • 82% of charity workers are based in England. That’s about equal to the country’s share of the UK population, 84%. This is followed by Scotland at 12%, Wales at 4%, and Northern Ireland at 2%.
  • In England, 40% of the voluntary sector workforce is based in London and the south.
  • Women are more likely than men to work for charities. They make up 67% of the workforce.

The breakdown of the voluntary sector workforce across the UK in 2023 is:

  • South East – 16%
  • London – 15%
  • Scotland – 12%
  • South West – 10%
  • East of England – 9%
  • North West – 8%
  • West Midlands – 8%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – 7%
  • East Midlands – 6%
  • Wales – 4%
  • North East – 3%
  • Northern Ireland – 2%

UK volunteering statistics

  • An estimated 14.2 million people over 16 years old in the UK have formally volunteered with a group, club or organisation. This means just over a quarter (27%) of the UK population have volunteered at least once in the last year. With that being said, volunteering levels are still well below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Outside of formal volunteering for groups, clubs, and organisations, almost half of the population volunteer informally in their communities. This involves helping someone who isn’t a relative for free. Normally through shopping, caring for children, or helping out with housework.
  • The number one reason people say they volunteer is because they want to improve things or help people. This hasn’t changed between 2019 and 2023.
  • 31% of volunteers say they do so remotely, either online or over the phone.

Where are UK charities based?

Of the 168,850 charities registered in the UK in 2023, the geographical breakdown was as follows:

  • 80% in England
  • 12% in Scotland
  • 4% in Wales
  • 4% in Northern Ireland

Scotland had the highest number of registered smaller charities per 1,000 people in the population at 3.6. Wales had the lowest at 2.3 per 1,000 people.

According to the latest UK charity sector statistics, larger charity organisations are more likely to be active nationally and internationally. Whereas smaller ones operate locally, often within the county or area they are based.

Most of the UK’s biggest voluntary organisations are based in London and the south.

What do UK small charities do?

Focusing on small charity statistics for the UK, according to the NCVO, the most popular small charity causes in 2020/21 were:

  • Social services (31,115 organisations)
  • Cultural and recreational services (24,556 organisations)
  • Religion (16,495 organisations)
  • Grant-making foundations (11,900 organisations)
  • Parent-teacher associations (11,076 organisations).

Village halls, youth clubs, and scout groups also featured further down the list. They made up a combined 13,211 organisations.

Protect your organisation with charity insurance

Voluntary organisations can protect themselves from risk with specialist insurance. What kind of cover suits any organisation best will depend on whether they're a charity, club, or community group. Also, what their purpose is, including if they offer a service or advice.

Public liability insurance covers events, fundraisers, and meetings in case of injury to anyone attending or damage to property. Employers’ liability insurance for charities is the only cover required legally and protects an organisation’s staff and volunteers. Trustees’ insurance protects trustees.

Contents and portable equipment insurance covers loss of or damage to kit, big or small. And professional indemnity insurance deals with claims an organisation’s service was sub-standard.

Charity cyber insurance provides technical expertise, plus legal, PR, and financial help if an organisation is targeted by cybercriminals. It also deals with data breaches - which is important when so much charity activity is now online.

Take a look at our website for more help with charity and not-for-profit insurance. Or give our team a call on 0345 222 5391.

Image used under license from iStock.

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