The Road Ahead

Our analysis of the major opportunities and challenges facing the voluntary sector in 2024. Learn more

Record membership growth for NCVO and better-than-expected financial performance highlighted in 2021 annual report

Ahead of its Annual General Meeting on 22 November, NCVO today publishes its annual report and financial accounts for the year ending 31 March 2021.

The accounts show that the largest membership organisation for charities and voluntary organisations in England finished the financial year 2020–21 with a small surplus of £84,000 before investment gains – a result that is much better than expected. The organisation had, in the initial period of Covid-19 restrictions in early 2020, forecast a £1.3m deficit for 2020–21.

Landmark 16,000 members and increased demand for services

The report also highlights that NCVO reached a landmark 16,000 members and recorded its largest annual membership growth on record (+7.1%). NCVO welcomed Disability Information Bureau as its 16,000th member in December 2020. Disability Information Bureau’s work is focused on empowering disabled people, vulnerable adults, carers, and those with long-term health conditions to achieve their full potential. As a part of NCVO’s voluntary sector community they will access support to make a bigger difference, have their role and work amplified, and create connections with people who want charities to thrive. Membership continues to grow beyond the year end and currently stands at 16,787.

From March 2020 there was increasing demand for support from across NCVO’s membership and the wider sector. As the pandemic took hold, NCVO opened up all its resources to access for free and rapidly developed new online coronavirus resources. Over the last 18 months these resources have had more than two million users.

NCVO also responded to changing needs of members with a new suite of specific content and resources to support charities with digital volunteering and technology planning. While face-to-face training had to cease, NCVO now offers a growing range of remote training courses.

Furthermore, NCVO played a leading role in the collaborative sector-wide campaign to secure emergency funding to ensure voluntary organisations could continue to deliver for people and communities during the pandemic.

Reduced income but better-than-expected finances

In parallel to increased demand, NCVO also experienced a large reduction in income. Total income for 2020–21 was £7.5m, down from £9.1m in 2019–20. The largest reduction was in trading income, reduced by £2.1m compared to the previous year. Coronavirus restrictions meant that, in addition to the impact on its face-to-face training and support service offer, the pandemic shut down NCVO’s popular Kings Cross venue of meeting and conference rooms. The venue has now reopened with a refreshed offer for charity clients, including hybrid meeting facilities.

However, income from donations and legacies increased to £2.25m in 2020–21 (£1.76m in 2019–20). This included £1m in restricted income from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Covid-19 support grants. Income from charitable activities remained stable at £3.93m (£3.94m in the previous period). This included £439,000 in income from the government’s Job Retention Scheme, which was vital in supporting the sustainability of the organisation while services such as the conference suite were closed.

NCVO’s free reserves as of 31 March 2021 stand at £3.76m (£2.84m in 2019–20). This equates to around six months' spend (2019–20 – circa four months) and is above the level agreed necessary by trustees (£2.5m). This is due to the organisation ending the year in a much better financial position than originally expected at the start of the pandemic. Spend from designated reserves will continue to be invested in long-term projects including those related to digital and equity, diversity and inclusion.

New strategy and response to coronavirus influence reduction in staff numbers following restructure

NCVO concluded a strategy review in December 2020, in which 900 stakeholders from across the charity sector were consulted over 18 months. The strategy development process coinciding with the impact of the pandemic on the organisation and sector, has informed a very clear focus about how NCVO will work with its members and the voluntary sector. NCVO will champion charities and volunteers for stronger communities for everyone. It will continue to support members to make a bigger difference, speak alongside and amplify voices from across the sector, unite those who want a thriving civil society, and embed new ways of working in the organisation that live our new values: collaborative, inclusive, open and ambitious.

As a result of this clear strategic direction, NCVO undertook a restructure in October 2020. NCVO paid out redundancy payments totalling £326,387 to 21 people in 2020–21 (compared with £33,314 to one person in 2019–20). NCVO’s staff headcount was reduced from 107 posts to 86 posts in total. The restructure meant NCVO removed £1.3m from its cost base to ensure longer term sustainability.

As a result of its more positive financial outlook, NCVO decided to reimburse staff, including former staff, for lost earnings due to taking part in furlough or from voluntary pay reductions to ensure they received their full 2020–21 contractual pay. Overall, this means in-year employee costs were £5.1m in 2020–21, a decrease of £0.3m since 2019–20 (£5.4m).

There was an improvement in NCVO’s pay ratio, standing at 3.2:1 in 2020–21 (compared to 3.8:1 in 2019–20), between the highest salary (£120,000 in 2020–21; £148,000 in 2019–20) to the median salary (£38,145 in 2020–21; £37,142 in 2019–20). 13 employees received salary and benefits totalling more than £60,000 in 2020–21 (range £60,001–£160,000) – six of these are included due to the impact of termination payments.

Total remuneration for the outgoing CEO, Karl Wilding, in 2020–21 stood at £138,446 incuding pension contributions, plus the equivalent of a further three months’ pay on leaving NCVO in March 2021 (£27,700). Two other Directors received redundancy payments following the restructure totalling £57,970.

Positive gender pay report, ethnicity pay gap reducing and disability pay gap reported for the first time

Although NCVO is not required to publish pay gap information due to its size, the organisation has continued to do so in 2020–21, as part of its commitment to best-practice in pay transparency.

There was an improvement in the median gender pay gap, standing at 0% parity in 2020–21 (compared with 8% in 2019–20). The mean gender pay gap increased to 5% in 2020–21, compared to 1% in 2019–20. However, there are improvements in gender pay gaps across the organisation’s salary quartiles, with three quartiles showing a positive pay gap between female and male employees. 72% of NCVO’s employees identify as female. Seven of 10 leadership team members identify as female as of 11 June 2021.

The percentage of employees identifying as Black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) increased by 5% points compared to 2019–20 to stand at 36% in 2020–21 (31% in 2019–20). In 2020–21, BAME staff earned on average 16% less than non-BAME staff. This compares to 20% less in 2019–20 and comes following an increase in the number of BAME staff at mid-grade roles at NCVO. Three of 10 leadership team members identify as BAME as of June 2021.

For the first time, NCVO also reports on its disability pay gap in this year’s accounts. It shows that 11% of staff self-identify as disabled. It found a positive average pay gap between disabled and non-disabled employees of +10%, while the median gap is +17%. As this is the first-year reporting on the disability pay gap there is no comparative data for the previous period.

Dr Priya Singh, Chair of Trustees at NCVO, commented:
“Our Annual Report looks back on a year like no other, our hearts go out to all those who have suffered and lost loved ones during the pandemic. We know that it has changed us all and I am immensely proud of the incredible impact that NCVO staff have continued to deliver and the tireless efforts of everyone across the organisation.
“The story at NCVO over this period reflects the experience of many of our members and the wider charity sector. We have seen demand for our services and resource increase, whilst many of our revenue-generating activities had to pause. We also undertook a strategy review with members and a consequent restructure, to ensure that we delivered best value for members and a sustainable future for NCVO.
“I am delighted that we have seen the largest increase in membership in our history, reaching a landmark 16,000 members in December 2020. We opened up many of our valued resources for free and collaborated with others to secure emergency funding from government for UK charities. I would like to acknowledge the support of the National Lottery Community Fund. Their grant allowed us to focus our effort and resource on providing additional support for the sector through this challenging year.
“I have watched in awe as our dedicated team supporting members and wider civil society pivoted overnight from in-person to remote delivery. Through the hard work of all involved during an incredibly difficult and challenging time, we were able to close the year in a better-than-anticipated financial position, with a small surplus before investment gains, and felt able to reimburse staff so that all received their full contractual pay for 2020–21.
“I am also pleased that we can share data on disparity in pay. We are making progress, with many promising signs, and there is still much to do. The trustees and leadership team are committed to addressing any pay gaps and to building teams reflective of our society as a whole. These priorities are reflected in our culture change roadmap and in the work of our new people, governance and culture team.
“On behalf of the Board and as Chair of Trustees, I would like to say thank you to all staff, trustees, partners and members – we have all faced many challenges over the year, been forced to adapt rapidly to new ways of working and, in many extraordinary and inspiring ways, have continued to provide ever-more-needed and essential support for the communities we serve.”


Notes to editors

For media enquiries: Please contact

Access the full annual report: You can read and download the full annual report.

About NCVO: NCVO is the largest membership organisation for the voluntary sector in England. With more than 16,500 members, NCVO represents all types of organisations, from large ‘household name’ charities to small voluntary and community groups involved at the local level. We are also the lead body for volunteering in England. To find out more visit

About Dr Priya Singh: Dr Priya Singh’s medical career began in general practice, following which she specialised in legal medicine. She has broad strategic, commercial, and operational experience in international healthcare, safety, ethics and risk. She is Chair Designate of the Frimley ICS, Deputy Chair of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Executive Director of the Society for Assistance of Medical Families, a Non-executive Director of South Central Ambulance Service, and a member of the London Policing Ethics Panel.

Back to top