What does grant making look like?


Around 30,600 voluntary organisations spend money on grants, representing 19% of all organisations

  • One in five (19%) voluntary organisations make grants. This includes about 12,500 grant-making foundations whose main purpose is to give grants to organisations or individuals.
  • In 2017/18, voluntary organisations spent £7.9bn on making grants to other voluntary organisations, community groups, public sector organisations and individuals. A third of all grants (£2.5bn, 31%) were made by grant-making foundations.
  • Grant giving makes up 15% of the sector’s total spending.

Over time

  • In 2017/18, grants given by voluntary organisations declined by 1% to £7.9bn. Grant making accounts for 15% of the sector’s total spending, a proportion that has remained relatively stable in the last four years.
  • The amount spent on grants has fluctuated with the economy over the last decade. The level of grant making dropped sharply by 26% in 2008/09 year on year, as the recession lowered investment income and the value of assets. Since 2008/09 it has gone up by about £3bn – a 60% increase.
  • The amount of grants the sector received by voluntary organisations have more than doubled from a low of £2bn in 2008/09 to £4.2bn in 2017/18. The remaining difference between grants given (£7.9bn) and grants received (£4.2bn) went to individuals and other types of organisations that were not included in the Almanac such as universities or small, unregistered groups.

Grant making fell slightly from the previous year

By size

  • Grant giving is highest among the larger organisations. In 2017/18, major and super-major organisations gave grants worth £4.6bn, accounting for 58% of all grants made by the sector. Super-major organisations alone accounted for 30% of all grants.
  • The larger the organisations, the more likely they are to give grants. Half (52%) of super-major voluntary organisations and one third (33%) of major voluntary organisations did so in 2017/18.
  • There are also a number of micro and small organisations – those with an income below £100,000 – that give grants. This includes trusts and foundations with large assets that pay grants directly from their funds. It may also include trusts and foundations that give grants through their gains on investment assets which previously were not reported as income.

Organisations with an income over £10m account for the majority of grants made

Top 10 grant makers

  • The grants given by the top 10 largest grant makers amount to £2.2bn and represents 28% of all grants made by the sector.
  • The Wellcome Trust alone made grants worth more than £1bn in 2017/18.

The 10 largest grant makers account for almost a third of all grants made


  • More than half (52%) of the grant making by voluntary organisations goes to other voluntary organisations. In 2017/18, the sector received £4.2bn in grants from grant-making voluntary organisations. Organisations working in international development receiving the largest share of those grants (£1.6bn, 38%) followed by religion (£507m, 12%) and social services (£477m, 12%)
  • The remaining £3.7bn (the difference between money spent on grant making and money received from grant making) goes to other types of organisations such as higher education institutions, public sector organisations or voluntary organisations that are not registered with the Charity Commission.

International development receives the largest share of grants from grant-making voluntary organisations

Spotlight: Grant making data

Grant making accounts for 8% of the voluntary sector’s total spending. This spotlight draws on the 360Giving dataset, based on standardised grant data from 102 UK funders, including trusts, foundations, government bodies and local councils, to produce further insights on grant making.

The majority of the grants awarded are small, but most of the money is distributed through larger awards. In 2017/18, almost three-fourths (74%) of grants were worth £10,000 or less, yet these only represented amounted to 7% (£150m) of the total amount given out by grant funders (£2.1bn). In contrast, 1% of grants were worth over £1m, accounting for £900m or 43% of all grant money awarded.

While 82% of grant funders made at least one award worth £5k-£10k, only 17 funders gave at least one grant worth over £1m. The top ten funders by amount given account for 82% of all grant funding. The largest funder in terms of amount awarded was the Wellcome Trust accounting for a quarter (25%) of all money given. The Wellcome Trust was also more likely to give repeat grants with an average of four grants per recipient, whereas most other funders gave only one grant per recipient. The National Lottery Community Fund is responsible for a large number of grants (27% of total) but gives much smaller grants and therefore only accounts for 21% of all money given.

The majority of grants are short-term, and long-term grants tend to be for bigger amounts. In 2017/18, 75% of grants with known time periods were under one year, making up 15% of the £2.1bn of grant funding. Only 4% of all grants lasted more than three years but accounted for almost half (49%) of all money given.

More data and research

Notes and definitions

We identify money spent on grants from the spending breakdowns given in voluntary organisations’ financial accounts. We then cross-check our estimates against additional data on grants that larger voluntary organisations submit to the Charity Commission.

As organisations sometimes change how they document grant making in their accounts, there might be some fluctuation in our data, especially for smaller organisations.