The past 12 months have been quite extraordinary, with the UK emerging from the covid-driven economic shutdown, to a period of rapid recovery as we steadily win the battle against this pernicious virus.

Ways of life have had to change, in some cases quite dramatically and most expect that many working and social practices we have had to embrace will remain long after the fear of covid has receded.

However, one thing that has not changed, as drawn out by this year’s Civil Society Almanac, is the resilience of the voluntary sector in the UK. The workforce in the sector has grown by 20% since 2010 and despite weak economic conditions, income from the public has actually increased, while levels of volunteering have remained largely unchanged since 2015, with over 20m people volunteering through a group, club or organisation. The value and consistency of the sector’s impact is amazing.

It is an interesting exercise to try and contextualise this and put a capital value on what would be required to generate this level of impact sustainably. On the basis that the sector spends the vast majority of its £56bn of income on charitable causes, and the value of formal volunteering is estimated to be worth about £24bn, we are looking at the value of the sector’s distributed impact being somewhere in the region of £75-80bn per annum.

By comparison, the total value of dividends we expect the FTSE 100 companies to pay out in 2021 is also about £75bn. So, one would need to spend the entire distributed profits of the 100 largest listed UK companies to provide the same services as the voluntary sector in the UK!

However, while the voluntary sector’s distributed impact has been remarkably robust through the economic cycle, the same cannot be said of FTSE 100 dividends, which were just £65bn in 2020.

On the basis that the FTSE 100’s capital value is currently about £1.8tn, the voluntary sector’s consistency would suggest that if it could be capitalised, it would worth well in excess of this figure: an extraordinary number, but one I suspect most of us would still feel undervalued our voluntary sector’s true worth to society.

As ever, the Almanac is a commendable piece of research. Sarasin & Partners is pleased to continue supporting the NCVO and the charity sector during these challenging times.

Richard Maitland

Sarasin & Partners

August 2021

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 September 2021