What is the state of the sector's finances?


  • In 2019/20, the sector’s total income reached £58.7bn, 3% higher than the previous year. The public continued to be the largest income source, making up £30bn or 51% of the voluntary sector’s total income.
  • Total spending stands at £56.9bn. The vast majority of the sector’s spending (£40.3bn) goes towards charitable activities (71%), followed by £8.8 bn in grants (15%) and £7.3bn in activities for raising funds 13%).
  • The sector’s total spending in 2019/20 was equivalent to 97% of its total income. However, the difference between income and spending in any individual year does not necessarily imply a surplus, as some elements of income and spending are recorded in one year but “used” over a period of several years.

Over time

  • Compared to the previous year, income rose by 3% or £1.8bn while spending rose by 3.5% or £1.9bn.
  • In the last two years, the gap between income and spending has narrowed slightly.
  • After initial fast growth in the early 2000s, income and spending plateaued from about 2007/08 and started growing again in 2012/13 though more recently at a slower rate on average.

Income and spending have continued to grow since 2000/01 but the rate of growth has slowed in recent years

Income by size

  • In 2019/20, combined income fell slightly for micro, small and medium-sized organisations (income under £1m) and rose for large, major and super-major organisations (income over £1m).
  • Over four-fifths (83%) of the sector’s income is generated by large, major and super-major voluntary organisations (income over £1m). Since 2007/08 to 2019/20, their income grew by a third (34%) from £38bn to £48.8bn.
  • Micro and small organisations make up 4% of the sector’s total income. This fell from £3bn in 2007/08 to £2.2bn (-26%) in 2019/20. For medium organisations, their total income fell from £9.2bn to £7.7bn (-16%) during the same period.
  • The total growth in the income of super-major organisations can be explained by their increased number but also by the strategies and decisions of the organisations themselves. For example, they include organisations that received large one-off donations.

The number of larger organisations has continued to grow, and they receive an increasing amount and share of the sector’s total income

Spending by size

  • Major and super-major organisations (income over £10m) are responsible for over half (55% or £31.1bn) of the sector’s annual expenditure.
  • Large organisations – those with an annual income of between £1m and £10m — make up the £15.4bn or 27% of the sector’s spending.
  • Micro, small, and medium-sized organisations (income under £1m) jointly make up the remaining 18% (£10.5bn).
  • On average, organisations of all sizes mostly spent on the direct delivery of charitable activities — ranging from 64% for micro and small organisations to 75% for medium ones.
  • Micro, small, and medium-sized organisations spent a lower proportion on activities for raising funds than larger organisations. They also spent a higher share on governance costs. Micro and small organisations in particular also spent a higher percent on grants (23%).

Major and super-major organisations are responsible for over half the sector’s expenditure, similar to their share of income

Proportion of organisations with zero income and spending

  • About 15, 000 organisations reported having zero income in 2019/20. This accounts for 9% of the whole voluntary sector.
  • Similarly, approximately 8,600 organisations reported having zero expenditure, almost all of which were micro organisations (income below £10,000). This accounted for 13% of all voluntary organisations.
  • About 8,200 organisations or 3% of all voluntary organisations reported having zero assets.

More data and research

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 31 October 2022