Where do voluntary organisations get their money from?

Overview

  • In 2017/18, voluntary organisations generated a total of £53.5bn. This money was received in a variety of ways and from a range of sources.
  • The public remains the largest source of income for the sector. In 2017/18, voluntary organisations received £25.4bn from the public; almost half (47%) of the sector’s total income. This includes voluntary income such as donations and legacies as well as income earned in a range of ways including through charity shops or membership fees.
  • The second largest income source is money from government, which makes 29% of total income. This includes income gained through funding, trading and paying for contracted services.
  • Other sources of income include money from the voluntary sector including trusts and foundations (10%), investments (8%), the private sector (5%), and the National Lottery (1%). These proportions remain unchanged from the last year.

Money from the public remains the largest source of income for voluntary organisations

Over time

  • Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, money received from the public increased by 4% from £24.4bn to £25.4bn. This is largely due to a notable increase in legacy income which has gone up by 19% while income from donations has remained almost unchanged.
  • Investment income fell by 6% compared to the previous year and stood at £4.1bn, the first decrease since 2009/10. However, it is still higher than the amount of investment income in 2015/16 (£3.7bn).
  • Income received from government, National Lottery, the voluntary sector and the private sector has remained relatively steady since last year, with income received from government increasing by 2% and voluntary sector increasing by 3%.

Both income from the public and government increased, with income from the public growing most

By type

  • There are three ways in which voluntary organisations can generate money. Income can be:
    • 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.
  • The sectors income is mostly made up of earned (47%) and voluntary income (45%). Income from investments made up the smallest proportion of total income.
  • Earned income has increased slightly by 1% since 2016/17, while voluntary income has seen a notable increase of 5%. This is largely due to increases in legacies (19%) and government grants (8%), however, super-major organisations have seen by far the biggest growth in these areas.

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

By size

  • Micro and small organisations are more likely to get money from the public than other organisations. In 2017/18, over half (58%) of micro and small organisations’ total income came from the public, compared to 45–49% for organisations of other sizes.
  • Larger organisations are more likely to receive money from government. Major organisations reported the highest proportion of government income, making up over a third (36%) of their total income. Similarly, government income also made up 29% of large organisations’ and 27% of super-major organisations’ total income.
  • Super-major organisations get the highest proportion of income from the voluntary sector. Voluntary sector income made up 16% of super-major organisations total income compared to other organisations which received 7–9%.

Micro and small organisations receive a larger proportion of income from the public than other organisations

By subsector

  • Income from the public made up more than half of income for ten out of 18 subsectors and more than two-thirds of income for environmental organisations (71%) and parent-teacher associations (67%).
  • Income from government made up almost half of total income for organisations working in employment and training organisations (49%), law and advocacy (46%) and social services (44%).
  • International organisations, on the other hand, are more evenly split. They receive around a third of their total income from the public (32%), the government (30%) and the voluntary sector (29%).
  • Grant-making foundations and research organisations received a higher proportion of their total income from investments (27% and 20% respectively) than other organisations (1—14%).

Income from the public makes up more than two-thirds of income for environmental organisations and parent-teacher associations

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.
  • Almost half (49%) of all voluntary organisations receive more than 50% of their income from the public. Government is the majority income source for only 8% of organisations.
  • Donations are the majority income source for 17% of all organisations, the same proportion as providing services to the public. Trading with the public is the majority income source for 9% of organisations.
  • About one fifth (18%) of organisations do not have a majority income source.

The majority of funding for more than half of all voluntary organisations comes from the public

More data and research

Notes and definitions

Voluntary sector income can be broken down and analysed in different ways.

  • There are two main types of voluntary sector income: earned income and voluntary income.
  • These income types come from five main sources: individuals, government, the voluntary sector, the private sector and the National Lottery.
  • In addition, there is investment income, generated from investments and cash balances.