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Big charities continue to grow as smaller charities struggle

Young people’s volunteering levels show sharp increase

The income of Britain’s biggest charities grew in 2013/14, while that of smaller and medium-sized charities’ decreased in real terms, new analysis shows, continuing a long-term trend.

The sector’s growth was concentrated among larger organisations, with those charities with an annual income of over £10m seeing growth while overall income for smaller and medium-sized charities declined or stayed the same. Charities in the £10m–£100m annual income category saw income grow by 3.7%, while those in categories below £1m all saw falls in their income (£100,000–£1m: -0.7%, £10,000–£100,000: -1.7%, <£10,000, -3.6%). The total income of those charities in the £100m+ category grew 26% – this was driven partly by increases in their income but also by an increase in the size of the category as a whole with a notable number of charities exceeding the £100m threshold for the first time (1).

The figures are the latest available, based on analysis of charities’ accounts as submitted to the Charity Commission. They are published today by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

NCVO’s analysis shows a continuing overall trend of larger charities increasing their income in recent years, while smaller charities have seen reductions (2). Other recent research by NCVO looking at a cohort of small and medium-sized charities over recent years found that proportionately they lost more of their government income and grew their donations less than larger counterparts (3).

2013/14 saw a 5.8% rise in the income of the charity sector as a whole in real terms on the previous year, to £43.8bn, mainly as a result of increases in income from individuals. Spending was up 3.5% to £41.7bn. Earned income from individuals, including fees for services and fundraising earnings such as charity shop sales, was up 4.2% to £10bn, while donations were up 7.7% at £7.2bn. Total income from individuals grew to its highest level ever in real terms at £19.4bn, though donations remained below their 2010/11 peak.

Income from government – which is largely in the form of contracts for running public services – also rose by 3.5% to £15bn, but remained below its 2007/8 to 2011/12 level. Most of the rise in government income accrued to the largest of charities, those with over £100m a year in income. This was driven in particular by a number of very large contracts with or grants to charities in this category. NCVO said this underlined the need for work to support smaller, specialist organisations, including in access to public service contracting. Government grants to the sector, at £2.8bn, are less than half the level they were ten years prior in 2003/4.

Youth volunteering up

The Almanac also contains analysis of government volunteering statistics, which uncovers a sharp rise in youth volunteering. The proportion of 16–25 year olds saying they volunteer once a month is up by more than half (52%) since 2010, increasing from 23% in 2010/11 to 35% in 2014/15, showing a clear trend of recent growth in young people’s regular volunteering.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

Charities of all sizes make an immense difference to our society and our world every day. We should be pleased that some of Britain’s most well-known and influential charities are continuing to grow and thrive.

However, while we should remember that each charity’s circumstances will differ, these figures do underline our concern that small and medium-sized charities are struggling in particular at the moment.

We all need to focus on what more can be done to support those good organisations which are nevertheless continuing to struggle in the current climate.

I would like to see more done to ensure that smaller, specialist charities can bring their expertise to public services. It’s worth noting here that increasingly the problem is not larger charities winning contracts at the expense of smaller charities, but that public service procurement is done in such a way that only large charities could win these contracts to begin with. At the moment, smaller charities find it hard to bid for public contracts due to commissioning practice that favours the largest of organisations, such as growing contract sizes and short bidding timeframes.

Nick Ockenden, head of research at NCVO, said:

We’ve seen much effort put into promoting volunteering to young people in particular in recent years. While we can’t know from this data whether these programmes have created this effect, it’s undoubtedly good news that more young people are volunteering. We know that volunteering at a young age can help set people on a path of getting involved in their communities over their lifetimes. We should invest more in looking at the factors behind this trend in order to do what we can to help it continue.

For further information, please contact: Aidan Warner, NCVO press office: 020 7520 2413 / 07714 243 942 (no SMS) / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac is the authoritative source of data on charity finances. It is created using a sample of 7,500 charities’ accounts, as submitted to the Charity Commission. These are digitised, analysed and weighted to the population of charities as a whole. It is used by the Office for National Statistics in their analysis of the charity sector’s contribution to national accounts.

The Almanac also covers other aspects of data relevant to charities, such as volunteering. The data used in its volunteering chapter comes from the government’s Community Life Survey, with secondary analysis by NCVO.

1) The year saw a notable increase in the number of organisations with an annual income of over £100m, with a total of 40 charities topping this threshold in 2013/14. They make up only 0.02% of all charities by number, but have 18.4% of the total income of the sector, and saw their income rise by £1.7bn between 2012/13 and 2013/14. Given their growing number and their large effect on the income of the whole sector, from both individuals and government, these £100m+ charities warranted their own new category of ‘super-major’ in this year’s analysis.

2) Charities’ income trajectories show larger charities growing while smaller charities shrank since 2008/9:

dataview 6366 2

3) See The squeezed middle: Small and medium-sized charities in a changing financial landscape for a summary of NCVO’s research for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.

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