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).
- The UK Civil Society Almanac is probably the most useful source, from NCVO.
- For Scotland see SCVO – policy and research link.
- Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is producing regular reports.
- Charity Commission for England and Wales – the charity register app (at Sep. 2014) has sector overviews.
- Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action produces a State of the Sector report (not every year).
- Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, while still fairly new, will have some stats.
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.
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.
- 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: email@example.comCAF 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)
- ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) is the American equivalent of ARVAC but has got much more on its web site. They sponsor Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
- Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development, in Canada, merged with Carleton Centre for Community Innovation, Aug 2011. Still worth a look?
- 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.
- Institute for Community Prosperity (previously Institute for Nonprofit Studies), Mount Royal University, Canada.
- International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) has an academic journal Voluntas, and occasional issue-based reports.
- Johns Hopkins University hosts the ISTR (above) and the Centre for Civil Society Studies. They have run Comparative Non-profit Sector Project for some years, which looks at how the sector differs across countries.
- Nonprofit Sector Research Fund Another American outfit.
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. Published 12/3/01: ‘The role and future development of black and minority ethnic organisations‘. This mapping exercise looks at the role of black and minority ethnic-led voluntary and community organisations in England and Wales.
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.