Sector Development, Research, Statistics

The collecting, sharing and use of data to improve performance across voluntary organisations is on Knowledge and data sharing page.

See Research Resources for help with doing your own research.


NB. This section was previously a separate page, with data put together when sector stats were hard to find on the web.

Scoping the sector is a developing field. There is no single definitive source, or a definitive definition of what the voluntary sector covers (see Glossary for some suggestions).

For instance, ‘registered charities’ will not cover all the small community organisations which aren’t registered in any way, or not-for-profits which don’t fall within the charitable definition (e.g. because their primary aim includes campaigning).

Key sources of charity statistics


Specific topics, regions

  • Sector bodies in English regions, and counties, have undertaken a variety of studies. See Local contacts for where to go to find out latest position.

Sector Development

RSA Project 2001 This ran pilot projects in Yorkshire and London, supporting voluntary organisations “in providing a quality learning experience for volunteers, committee members and staff”. The resulting report Making it Work – Learning and Accreditation in the Voluntary Sector, (Mar 01) costs £5 including p&p from 020 7451 6833.

Research Bodies, Think Tanks

  • ARVAC (Association for Research in the Voluntary and Community Sector) aims to increase effectiveness through research, and provide researchers with a supportive network. Acts as a resource for people interested in research in or on community organisations.
  • CAF Research Programme Has Charity Trends website, with research and analysis of data on the sector. This includes: payroll giving, gift aid, income from central government and health authorities, trends in individual giving, local/community income. Free printed copies from CAF Research, phone 01732 520125, email: research@caf.charitynet.orgCAF does/supports various other research. Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4TA, phone 01732 520000.
  • Voluntary Action Research Group at Sheffield Hallam University. Undertakes contract research for organisations.
  • Civil Exchange “is a think tank that exists to help government and the voluntary sector work better together”.
  • DANGO (Database of Archives of Non-Governmental Organisations) was tackling the availability of records relating to non-governmental organisations and pressure groups active in the UK since 1945, to help assess the impact of such bodies on society. Ended 2007 – see NGOs in Britain below.
  • EMES European Network studies third sector, social enterprises etc.
  • European Research Network on Philanthropy.
  • The Evidence Library has been set up by Scottish umbrella body SCVO to “provide a resource for discovering new research, finding out the latest facts and figures and stimulating ideas”.
  • The Galileo Group (not the international investment company) is an independent scholarly community of academics and practitioners whose main interest is to explore the way in which theories can be developed and applied to problems of organisation and management in the voluntary sector.
  • HistPhil is a web publication on the history of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, with a particular emphasis on how history can shed light on contemporary philanthropic issues and practice.
  • Institute for Jewish Policy Research has undertaken studies on governance, resources etc. within the jewish voluntary sector.
  • Institute for Voluntary Action Research, developed out of Aston Centre for Voluntary Action Research, Aston Business School.
  • Institute for Volunteering Research.
  • nfpSynergy, a commercial business, aims to “provide ideas, insights and information to help not for profit organisations thrive in a changing world.”
  • NGOS in Britain (Non-Governmental Organisations UK 1945-1997) project ran from 2008 to 2011. At Centre for Modern and Contemporary History.
  • Third Sector Research Centre (government/ESRC funded 2008-14).
  • The Royal Irish Academy did have a Third Sector Research Programme but no sign on the website from spring 2013.
  • UK Voluntary Sector Research Group (UKVSRG) brings together the researchers of the four national sector bodies (see Support Bodies page). Wales – WCVA supports sector research and networking. Scotland – try SCVO’s Evidence Library.
  • Voluntary Action History Society aims to advance the historical understanding and analysis of voluntary action, charitable and voluntary organisations and to build a network of academics, students and practitioners working in this field.
  • Voluntary Sector Studies Network “provides a virtual and actual meeting point for scholars and researchers both outside and within the voluntary (third or non-profit) sector(s), with a shared analytic interest in this set of institutions.” Publishes Voluntary Sector Review journal – see Magazines.
  • Various regional statistics have been produced for the sector. See our Local/Regional contacts page.

International (mainly American)

Research Projects and Reports

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives – website run by run by the British Academy Research Project ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’ . A five year project (2014-19) which aims to support voluntary sector archives in the preservation and digitisation of their archives and to promote archives as part of the voluntary sector’s wider public benefit responsibility.

Third Sector Impact, a research project bringing together over thirty researchers from 10 European universities and more than 100 stakeholders, was launched January 2014. It aims to understand the scope and scale of the third sector in Europe, its current and potential impact, and the barriers hindering the third sector to fully contribute to the continent’s welfare.

Charity Law and Policy Unit, University of Liverpool. Some publications:

  • Charities and the Contract Culture. Report, July 99, on a year-long research project to identify problems of a legal nature which have arisen for charities as a result of the ‘contract culture’.
  • Legal Issues in Charity Mergers Report, Jan 01, on a year-long research project to identify the legal issues arising in charity mergers and the different responses to them, and to consider the most appropriate solutions to commonly experienced problems.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation carries out some research of relevance.

Public Management Foundation Wasted Values: harnessing the commitment of public managers (Nov 99), available from their online book store. A report on research into the goals and motivations of senior public managers. It concludes that public sector managers and their private sector counterparts are motivated by very different things. In June 99, the Foundation undertook a nationwide survey of 400 of the UK’s top public, private and voluntary sector managers. Asked about their goals and about what motivates them to do their job well, managers in the three different sectors gave some revealingly different replies. Voluntary sector managers show a mixture of public and private sector views.

Also see Training – professional development as most of the higher education establishments listed run research programmes to some extent.

Support Bodies

The main national support/ infrastructure bodies, those for community/small/ethnic groups, charity managers.

The number of groups that seek to support particular functions or issues within voluntary organisations has been growing slowly. Co-operation has also generally improved. While many of those listed here operate on a membership or subscription basis, some useful info may be available to non-members.

Also see: function-based support, issue-based supportlocal and regional. And Community Groups Resources for multi-function/ social action centre networks etc.

General National Bodies

  • National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) For organisations in England with a national or local remit. Runs conferences and seminars, sources discounts from various suppliers. Free membership for organisations with income below £30,000 a year. Regent’s Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL, phone 020 7713 6161.
  • Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) Useful weekly email newsletter. 61 Duncairn Gdns, Belfast, BT15 2GB, phone 028 9087 7777.
  • Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) produces weekly newspaper Third Force News, and has free helpline number 0800 169 0022. Members can get discounts on SCVO training and publications, various software, and also access to Pension Scheme and Credit Union. Free membership for organisations with income below £25,000 a year. Phone 0131 474 8000.
  • Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) Membership from £30, plus free limited ‘e-membership’ for smaller voluntary and community groups. Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 5FH, phone 0800 2888 329 (or 029 2043 1700). Offices also in Rhyl, Aberystwyth.
  • Association of Jersey Charities.

For smaller organisations

Gender, ethnicity etc.

Managerial support

Misc support


Non-profit and commercial firms with relevant publications.

Non-profit Publishers

Commercial with Sector Focus

  • Chapel and York International Fundraising (especially from US sources). Books are half-price to any charity or nonprofit with an annual income of less than £60,000.
  • CharityFinancials from CaritasData Following publications no longer listed, so not produced any more? Top 3000 Charities, UK Top 10,000 Charities, Top 1000 Charities in Scotland, Who’s Who in Charities.
  • Earthscan, now part of Routledge. Originally set up to publish titles on environment, development and sustainability, it now does co-publishing on a wider area, including books on ‘Urban Development and Community’.
  • Civil Society Media Publish Charity Finance and other charity titles. The autumn 2016 web revamp seems to have dropped a number of finance checklists and the Charity Finance Yearbook but might reappear. 15 Prescott Place, London, SW4 6BS, phone 020 7819 1200.
  • Russell House Publishing A lot of social services, youth and community work related titles, as well as some useful ones on general sector management issues. 4 St George’s House, The Business Park, Uplyme Road, Lyme Regis, Dorset, DT7 3LS. Phone 01297 443948, email:
  • White Lion Press Fundraising related.

General Publishers, some relevant titles

  • Croner Publish various manuals, such as Management of Voluntary Organisations; Care Homes; Financial Reporting for Charities, available on 10 day trial, with regular update services. I’ve always found these the easiest of the loose-leaf manuals to use, but not cheap. The online Croner Select regulation compliance information facility changes in Feb 05 – limited access without a subscription. 145 London Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT2 6BR, phone 020 8247 1261 (Customer Services), email:
  • Jordan Publishing is now part of LexisNexis. A number of charity admin/legal titles.
  • Key Haven Publish legal and tax titles.
  • Kogan Page Publish How to manage a voluntary organization.
  • Palgrave All areas of Social Care – Health, Nursing, Social Work, Social Policy and Counselling.
  • Routledge, part of Taylor and Francis. An academic focus, with various social care related titles. There is a Routledge Studies in the Management of Voluntary and Non-Profit series. Relevant titles include The Governance of Public and Non-Profit Organizations (Chris Cornforth, Open University, Oct 02/paperback May 05); Nonprofit Organizations (Nov 04), Fundraising Management, Arts Management, Strategic Management for Nonprofit Organizations, Financial Management in the Voluntary Sector. You can also check out their journals on the Taylor and Francis website, if you know the title.
  • Many of Tolley’s/Butterworth range of ‘Charity Administration’ titles are now with Bloomsbury Professional. Relevant titles (prices at 2004!) include: Charities Manual (£154), Charity Administration Handbook (£44-95), Charity Investigations (£48-95), Charity Accounting and Taxation (£59-95).

Charities etc. with subject range

Also see Areas of Concern section.

Information Sources

Key sites for information, news, sector directories etc.

Key sector information sites

Other key resources

News sources

Some of the sites appearing above, and other specialist sources listed elsewhere, will also carry relevant news for their areas.

Useful online/email newsletters


Do remember that legal matters and the role (and jargon) of the voluntary sector differ from country to country.

Blogs, Social Media

Blogs and forums often come with RSS (news) feeds built-in – a simple way to deliver summaries of frequently changing web content via news readers or similar tools.

  • Discussion lists and forums connected with a specific function (e.g. IT support) will appear on the relevant page covering support bodies.

Directories – voluntary organisations, charities

There are a number of websites vying to be the directory of choice. The online registers from the charity regulators are also generally quite useful.

  • Open Charities is a project “to open up the UK Charities Register” (although it only has done England and Wales so far).
  • Charity Financials (was Charities Direct) from Caritas Data. They claim to have regularly updated info on over 10,000 charities, although there have been queries about how accurate it is. Also lists/profiles various professional advisers.
  • Charity Choice This database is also available in hard copy. Online you can search by category, name, location, charity registration number etc. Has phone numbers and some web site links. From business information publisher, Wilmington.
  • CharityLibrary hasn’t developed very far (approx 2,000 with some form of listing at spring 20211).

Useful non-UK sites

The following are worth checking out if you have a) the time b) the inclination to filter out the foreign, mainly American, specific content. Remember that legal matters, non-profit boards and the whole approach to philanthropy/giving can be very different to that in the UK.

  • Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (CNP), part of Urban Institute. Projects include the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) and Research Initiative on Nonprofit Advocacy.
  • National Council of Nonprofits website has a resources section.
  • Idealist An international project of Action without Borders, based in the US.  You can search on various topics and by country, date of event.
  • The Balance (was has a Non-Profit channel – plenty of stuff but very American.
  • Management Help general library page has links to management articles of varying relevance and quality.
  • In Canada: nonprofit ‘supersite’ Charity Village, or Sector Source site from Imagine Canada.