What does grant making look like?


Around 22,000 voluntary organisations spend money on grants, representing 14% of all organisations

  • One in seven voluntary organisations make grants. This includes about 12,700 grant-making foundations whose main purpose is to give grants to organisations or individuals.
  • In 2016/17, voluntary organisations spent £7bn on making grants to other voluntary organisations, community groups, public sector organisations and individuals. A third of all grants (£2.4bn, 34%) were made by grant-making foundations.
  • Grant giving makes up 14% of the sector’s total spending.

Over time

  • In 2016/17, grants given by voluntary organisations grew by 5% to £7bn. Grant making accounts for 14% of the sector’s total spending, a proportion that has remained relatively stable in the last six 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, as the recession lowered investment income and the value of assets. Since 2008/09 it has gone up by £2.3bn – a 47% increase.
  • Growth has also been seen in the amount of grants the sector received. Since 2015/16 grants received by voluntary organisations increased by 17%, amounting to £4bn in 2016/17. The remaining difference between grants given (£7bn) and grants received (£4bn) went to individuals and other types of organisations that were not included in the Almanac such as universities or small, unregistered groups.

Grant making grew by 5% from the previous year

By size

  • Grant giving is highest amongt the bigger organisations. In 2016/17, major and super-major organisations gave grants worth of £4.2bn, accounting for 60% of all grants made by the sector. Super-major organisations alone account for 30% of all grants.
  • The bigger the organisations, the more likely they are to give grants. Two-fifths (41%) of super-major voluntary organisations and one third (32%) of major voluntary organisations did so in 2016/17.
  • 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 ten grant-makers

  • The grants given by the top ten largest grant makers totals £2bn and represents almost a third (29%) of all grants made by the sector.
  • The Wellcome Trust alone made grants worth £856m in 2016/17.

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


  • More than half (57%) of the grant making by voluntary organisations goes to other voluntary organisations. In 2016/17, the sector received £4bn in grants from grant-making voluntary organisations, with organisations working in international development receiving the largest share of those grants (£1.5bn, 37%).
  • In 2016/17, a significant amount (£486.3m, 12%) went to grant-making foundations. Almost half of this is accounted by one gift of £200m, received by the Steve Morgan Foundation from the Trinity Trust.
  • The remaining £3bn (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 received the largest share of grants from grant-making voluntary organisations

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.