Where do voluntary organisations get their income from?


  • In 2019/20, voluntary sector income was £58.7bn, from a variety of sources
  • The biggest source is the public, which made up £30bn or 51% of all income. This includes voluntary income such as donations and legacies, and income earned in different ways including trading such as charity shops and membership fees. This is the first year since at least 2000/01 that public income has made up the majority of sector income.
  • This was followed by the government with £15.4bn or 26%, which can include grants, public service contracts and fees for services provided by charities.
  • Other sources include the voluntary sector (£5.2bn or 9%) investment (£5.2bn or 9%), the private sector (£2.4bn or 4%) and the national lottery (£502m or 1%)

Half of all voluntary sector income comes from the public, followed by a quarter from the government

Over time

  • Income growth in 2019/20 was driven by the public (£2.5bn or a 9% increase from the previous year) and investment (£361m or 7.5%). Income from the public doubled from £15bn in 2000/01 to £30bn in 2019/20 and rose from 42% to 51% of sector income.
  • Government income peaked in 2009/10 at £17.9bn or 37% of all income. After 2010/11, the amount and proportion fell and has plateaued since 2015/16. In 2019/20, government income fell from the previous year by £684m to £15.4bn or 26% of income - the lowest proportion since 2004/05.
  • Income from the voluntary sector more than doubled from £2.4bn in 2000/01 to £5.2bn in 2019/20.
  • National Lottery income halved over the past two decades, falling from £950m in 2000/01 to £502m in 2019/20.

Income from the public and investment have risen while government income has fallen

By size

  • Micro and small organisations (those with less than £100,000 income) received 58% of their income from the public — more than all other sized charities.
  • Medium (income £100,000 - £1m) and larger organisations (over £1m) receive at least double the proportion of income from government (from 23% to 30%) than that of micro and small organisations (12%). Major organisations (income £10-£100m) had the largest amount and share (£5.7bn or 30%).
  • Super-major organisations (income over £100m) received the highest proportion of income from the voluntary sector (12%) compared to 8% to 9% for medium, large (income £1-£10m) and major, and twice the proportion of micro and small (6%).
  • Micro and small organisations also received the largest share of income from investment (21%) — more than triple the proportion for major and super-major (6%) and more than double that of large (10%).

Smaller organisations get a greater share of their income from the public

By subsector

  • Income from the public made up at least half of all income for two-thirds of subsectors. This was higher for some subsectors including parent-teacher associations (72%), environment (69%) and culture and recreation and scout groups and youth clubs (both 61%).
  • Some subsectors received a far greater proportion of their income from the government, the largest being for employment and training (54%), playgroups and nurseries (43%) and law and advocacy (42%) - all of which are linked to public service provision.
  • Income from the voluntary sector made up a greater proportion for international (30%), umbrella bodies (15%) and village halls (11%), which suggests a combination of grant funding and services sold to the sector such as consultancy, training and room hire.
  • Investment made up a significantly larger income share for grant-making foundations (24%), research (21%) and housing (19%).

Parent-teacher associations and environmental organisations get more than two-thirds of their income from the public

Type of income

  • There are three ways in which voluntary organisations can generate income:
    - voluntary which includes donations, grants or sponsorship
    - earned which includes income generated through contracts, membership fees or charity shops, but also fundraising activities like bake sales or raffles
    - from investments.
  • Voluntary sector income is mostly earned (£27.9bn or 48%) and voluntary (£25.6bn or 44%), with investments being much smaller (£5.2bn or 9%).
  • All types of income went up compared with the previous year: earned income rose by 4%, voluntary income 2% and investment had a much higher increase of 8%. This increase in investment can be mostly attributed to large charities (51% of the increase)

The sector’s income is almost entirely made up of earned and voluntary income

Majority funding source

  • Income sources can also be explored by looking at the majority funding source for individual organisations. We define majority funding source as more than 50% of all income for an organisation coming from one single source.
  • Two fifths or 40% of voluntary organisations rely on the public for the majority of their funding. Within this, donations from the public are the majority income source for 16% of all voluntary organisations while trading with the public for 12% of organisations.
  • The government is the majority source for 9% of organisations. This is much higher for large, major and super-major organisations, each of which had almost one-quarter receiving the majority of their income — most of which was government contracts.
  • Investment was the majority income source for 20% of all organisations, for which the highest proportion was for were micro and medium (24% and 17% respectively).
  • 28% of voluntary organisations don’t rely on any majority income source. This was by far the highest for micro organisations (44%).

Two-fifths of voluntary organisations rely on the public for most of their funding, while more than a quarter don’t receive their income from a majority source

More data and research

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 October 2022