Where are organisations based?

Across the UK

  • Most voluntary organisations are based in England: There were more than 133,000 voluntary organisations in 2016/17 representing over 80% of all UK voluntary organisations. This is broadly similar to population patterns with 84% of people in the UK living in England.
  • With more than 19,000 voluntary organisations, Scotland has the highest density of organisations. For every 1,000 people, there were 3.7 registered voluntary organisations in Scotland compared to 2.4 for England.
  • Wales continued to have the lowest number of organisations per 1,000 people, with 2.2.

The distribution of voluntary organisations across the UK is broadly similar to the distribution of the population

Across England

  • Half of all English voluntary organisations are based in the south: 67,252 out of 133,884 organisations are registered in either London, the south-east or the south-west.
  • Although voluntary organisations registered in London make up only 19% of all organisations in England, they hold two-thirds (68%) of all their assets and almost half (48%) of their income. This is due to a few very asset-rich organisations being based in London, including the Wellcome Trust, which accounts for 17% of the assets in England alone.
  • Where voluntary organisations are based is not necessarily where their beneficiaries are or where they spend their money. While most voluntary organisations are based in the south of England, a lot of them work on national level.

The majority of voluntary organisations with the biggest assets are based in London


  • In 2016/17, London was home to 39% of all organisations with an income of over £1m. More than half (60%) of all super-major organisations were based in London.
  • Nine in ten super-major organisations had their headquarters in London but operate at national or international level.
  • Larger organisations are also more likely to give grants to other voluntary organisations.

While big voluntary organisations are more likely to be based in the capital, they are active across the UK and overseas

Rural versus urban

Rural areas have more voluntary organisations per person, but these tend to be smaller

  • There is a clear rural/urban split in the distribution of voluntary organisations: In 2016/17, rural local authorities on average had 3.3 organisations per 1,000 people compared to 2.0 in urban areas.
  • Voluntary organisations in urban areas were on average three times larger in terms of income than their rural counterparts.

Area of operation

  • Smaller voluntary organisations are more likely to work locally. The vast majority of micro (78%) and small organisations (77%) do so compared to just 10% of super-major organisations.
  • Super-major organisations have by far the largest proportion of organisations that work at a national level (71%) or overseas (18%). These figures are almost unchanged from the previous year.

Smaller voluntary organisations are more likely to operate solely in their local area

More data and research