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UK Civil Society Almanac 2019 - Graphics for the report

Charities’ public income down

The UK Civil Society Almanac 2019 from NCVO shows charities’ income from the public is down for the first time since 2009.

According to the report, the UK charity sector’s annual income has grown to more than £50bn for the first time, increasing by 2 per cent year-on-year to £50.6bn in 2016/17.

The report says this growth is due to increases in grants and investments, which account for £588.8m and £602.6m of the sector’s income respectively. However, the sector’s largest sources of income, from the public and government, have both dipped slightly to £22.9bn and £15.8bn respectively.

Charities’ spending also increased in 2016/17, with expenditure on grants increasing by 5 per cent to a new record high of £7bn. Some 57 per cent of charities’ grant-making stays within the sector, with the majority of this going to international development organisations.

The sector’s net assets also grew by 4 per cent to £131.2bn in 2016/17, marking a new record high, mainly due to strong investment performance. Total liabilities also reached their highest levels of £22.4bn, rising sharply by 12 per cent, due in part to pensions costs increasing by 55 per cent to £3.2bn Meanwhile, the number of people working in the voluntary sector fell slightly to 865,916.

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and incoming chief executive at NCVO, said grant makers could be the key to distributing the sector's growing assets to smaller charities.

He said: "The sector's income as a whole is still growing, which is positive, but it’s at a slower rate than we’ve seen recently. And it’s important to note the factors driving growth, assets and legacy income, are less likely to be things small charities have access to.

"Grant makers should be especially conscious of this, as they are a key way of distributing the proceeds of asset growth to those organisations which are asset poor. Greater collaboration, simpler access to grants and proportionate reporting requirements are a few examples of what will help here.”

Wilding also suggested the dip in money from the general public was due to charities making efforts to comply with new data protection standards.

He said: "The drop in public income reflects other findings we’ve seen and anecdotal evidence. Clearly lots of organisations were adapting their fundraising strategies at this point in time, preparing to meet higher data-protection standards, and doing a lot of internal work rather than launching donor-recruitment campaigns. I’m hopeful that re-focusing on the right sort of engagement with supporters will pay off in the long run."

Read: Civil Society - Charities’ income from public down for first time since 2009, says NCVO report