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.
  • Centre for Government and Charity Management, London South Bank University. Extends to social enterprise; current and recent masters dissertations on various charity topics available.
  • 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 – also this link) at Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. Project was due to run to 2011.
  • 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. 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.

Social Economy

Support for social and community enterprise, co-operatives

Including co-operatives and community enterprises.


Co-operative Working 1, 2 and 3 was part of a range of publications produced by Co-operatives Research Unit at the Open University – may still be available at Dept for Public Leadership and Social Enterprise? A selection of learning materials covering different aspects and different stages in the development of worker co-ops. From CRU, Technology Faculty, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, phone 01908 653054, email:

Radical Routes How to set up a workers’ co-op and How to set up a housing co-op booklets. Contact Footprint Workers Co-op to check availability, email:

Start your social enterprise (pdf, 3.7MB) is one of several publications available from Social Enterprise UK.

UK Society for Co-operative Studies publishes a regular Journal, but probably only for those really interested in all aspects of co-operative activity.

Networks and Educational

Also see: Academic providers such as School for Social Entrepreneurs, can be found on Professional Development page.

By location

Other websites

  • Assist Social Capital A Scottish project to promote the concept (and relevant action?).
  • Community Enterprise Ltd Business Support, Training and Consultancy Services for the Social Economy, based in Edinburgh.
  • Co-operative Assistance Network Trainers and consultants with various briefing sheets on the web site, including on housing, food and childcare co-ops.
  • Co-operatives UK is the merged body of co-op ‘trade associations’ – worker, consumer, housing, community and other co-op types. Legal and other services and support, training. Holyoake House, Hanover St, Manchester, M60 0AS. Co-operative & Community Finance is a sister organisation providing loan finance for co-operatives, employee owned businesses and social enterprises.
  • EMES Research Network European social economy research network.
  • Grassroots Economic Organizing On-the-ground news from the co-operative world (produced in North America).
  • LetsLink Information on setting up and running Local Exchange Trading Systems or Schemes – trading locally without money (using ‘complementary currencies’).
  • Social Economy Legal a blog from a trainee solicitor in Belfast. Note that there are some legal differences between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.
  • Time Banking A variation on Lets (not to be confused with Time Bank, a volunteering set up). Also see Fair Shares.
  • is the online directory of co-operatives.
  • For an international angle on Social Entrepreneurs, take a look at Ashoka or its online resource Changemakers.
  • Institute for Social Entrepreneurs.

Aid and Development Resources

Useful links as per ‘Areas of Concern’ pages and more.

Codes of Conduct, Quality Standards

Sphere Standards was set up in 1997 to develop a set of universal minimum standards in core areas (water supply & sanitation, nutrition, food aid, shelter & site planning and health services) of humanitarian assistance. There is now a Handbook, designed to be used as a tool, as well as training material and case studies (from pilot agencies) online.

CHS Alliance (was People in Aid/Hap Interntional) has Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS). See website for info on training, resources, etc.

Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief.

See NGO Evidence Principles on BOND website.


RedR Run a training programme for relief workers.

BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) learning and training services.

The large organisations, such as VSO, Oxfam, run their own in-house courses which may also be available to partner agencies.

INTRAC (International NGO Training and Research Centre) run a variety of courses in Oxford and London, such as capacity building, supporting Southern advocacy, building organisational relationships.

Internet and Information Technologies

including Open Source (Foss/Floss).

Development Impact and You – DIY Toolkit has practical tools to trigger & support social innovation. “A toolkit on how to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. It’s quick to use, simple to apply, and designed to help busy people working in development.”

Centre for Digital Development at Manchester University Various resources and useful links, research etc. Connected with the university’s Global Development Institute (which took over the Institute for Development Policy and Management).

Spider The Swedish Program for Information and Communication Technology in Developing Regions.

Other Resources

Aid Workers Network Practical advice for aid workers by aid workers. The Exchange weekly email bulletin has a good take-up and useful info.

Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)

Changing Ideas “helps photographers and charities turn humanitarian ideas into reality”.

Fahamu makes electronic information available to support progressive social change in the South – includes distance learning materials for human rights and humanitarian organisations. CD-ROMs and online versions of resources such as Writing for Change on effective writing skills.

Fritz Institute (American) is about strengthening the infrastructures of humanitarian relief organizations.

Humanitarian Futures Programme is an independent policy research programme based at King’s College London.

Humentum has some good links.

Scotland’s International Development Alliance.

networklearning is aimed at making resources available to NGOs working in development or humanitarian fields.

Institute of Development Studies (Sussex).

Project Management for Development Organizations is what you might expect from such a name.

Further Contacts

Originally on the Areas of Concern section – may be some overlap with above.

Local and Regional

Local and regional sources of support and info.

National starting points

Local Resources

Websites from local infrastructure bodies which offer information relevant to organisations based or working in their areas and/or a directory of local voluntary and community groups. Dates given in brackets are the most recent times we checked what they were up to. We can’t list every site here, so aim to have a spread across the UK, particularly those with a good range of accessible material or voluntary sector contacts info.

You may also want to try out external search engines to locate local facilities and groups as they are easier to find than when this page was started.


Birmingham Birmingham VSC (24/2/18).

Bradford DIVA (3/6/05). Voluntary organisations database for Bradford District.

Brighton Sussex Community Internet Project (15/1/01) Covers the whole county and loads of link lists, but a definite Brighton flavour. Also check: Resource Centre (11/10/01) – equipment and information for Brighton and Hove community groups; Brighton and Hove – Community Works.

Bristol Voscur – has a lot of useful resources on its Support Resources from Voscur (May’14).

Devon Voluntary Action (Jan’15).

Dorset Community Action (4/9/02).

Durham Durham Voice.

East Sussex ESCIS Community Information Service from the local authority.

Essex A system from the county council allows community groups to set up their own web pages at (23/1/06).

Action Hampshire.

Hertfordshire Community Development Action Hertfordshire (22/11/13).

Leeds Doing Good Leeds (Mar.’14).

London Community Action Southwark (Oct. ’14) – website has a good resources section.

Norfolk Voluntary Norfolk (22/3/10).

North Tyneside VODA (1/6/05).

Nottingham CVS (12/6/02).

Oxfordshire: Oxfordshire CVA (June 2015).

Sheffield: Sheffield Directory (18/1/11).

Staffordshire Support Staffordshire.

Surrey Community Action (15/9/03).

Wirral Community Action Wirral (22/6/10)

York CVS (11/6/03).

Northern Ireland

North West Community Network (22/3/10).

Scotland (Mar.’20).

Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action (Mar.’20).

East Lothian Strive.

Edinburgh Edinburgh Compact aims to improve communication across the 1800 or so local organisations (27/3/06), Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (27/3/06).

Orkney Voluntary Action Orkney (15/1/07) or Orkney Communities (Nov 03).

Skye & Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Organisations (3/11/03). Their community toolkit looks very good.


Cardiff Third Sector Council (19/3/12).

InfoEngine (being developed 2015) is an online directory of services (provided by community organisations etc.) covering Powys, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.

Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) (19/12/03).

Powys Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (11/11/11), phone 0845 009 3288.

Swansea SCVS (13/9/04).

County and District

A trend of local council sites creating directories of voluntary organisations operating in their area appears to have reversed. There are probably some still out there – do let us know of live sites, or those in development.


Sector Networks/Forums

These were often set up in response to the ‘regional agenda’ of the last Labour government, and with less financial support since then. Our Lobbying page has any remaining regional government links.

These initiatives are primarily about improving communications between voluntary and community organisations in their region (who are encouraged to be members), providing information on issues which effect them and encouraging the development and dissemination of good practice. Also often doing regionally based lobbying.

North East England Voluntary Organisations Network North East.

North Yorkshire and York Forum.

East of England East of England BME Network.

East Midlands One East Midlands.

Technology/media focus

Cambridge Online.

Manchester People’s Voice Media.

Local Mixed Bag

Many cities and larger towns have their own sites, run commercially, by the local council, individuals or community groups. These will often have something about local voluntary activity, but quality and focus vary hugely. Some will not get past listing the next car boot sale in aid of the Scouts. However, they are worth a try.

Also check local newspaper websites.

Other local sites worth a look

We haven’t checked these sites fully, or they don’t quite make the grade to be in the sections above.

Bassetlaw CVS (9/2/01)

Community News Coventry and Warwickshire.

LondonVoices (10/1/02) A network for community and neighbourhood websites in London.

Merseyworld (9/2/01).

Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester M12 6FZ, phone 0161 273 7451.

Voluntary Action East Renfrewshire.

Community Accountancy Self Help (west London). Features some local projects as well as very useful community accountancy stuff.

Community Groups Resources

Support bodies, research and other resources for community-based organisations.

Help in taking action locally, working with communities, social action, community development, etc.

General community support

Specialist Communities Bodies

  • Responsible Finance. Was Community Development Finance Association – trade association for community development finance institutions.
  • Community Ownership Support Service is a Scottish government funded project to help community-based groups in Scotland to take on land or building assets for their community. It also supports local authorities wishing to transfer a building or land asset.

Other Resources

Also see Social Economy page for Community/co-op businesses. And Rural communities links.

  • The Can Do Guide provides advice for community groups on such matters as dealing with health and safety and managing money. It is based on the experience of a number of Yorkshire groups who were interviewed about the challenges they faced in getting their ideas off the ground and how they overcame them.
  • Just Act aims to provide practical advice for anyone wanting to make a difference and improve their community, anything from running a street party to taking over a core community service. Just Act is managed by Community Development Foundation with support from other organisations and the government’s Communities Department.
  • MyCommunity, launched by Locality in March 2015, helps “communities to take control over their Land & Buildings, Local Services, Neighbourhood Planning and Local Economy through the Community Rights, grants, expert advice and networking”.
  • Community Tool Box aims to “support your work in promoting community health and development”, but much of what they offer could be equally useful to others involved in community settings. Produced by Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. Sample topics: group facilitation, social marketing, community planning, plus there are some trouble-shooting guides. Not sure the categorisation of material always works, but fairly easy to navigate.
  • Groop (was RunAClub) – “Groop your team, club, group or community into an intuitive group management platform”.
  • My Community Cinema from British Film Institute supports new and established community cinemas all over the UK.
  • SCVO has the KeyStone management toolkit and information resource for anyone involved with village halls and community buildings in Scotland.
  • Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland promotes better community relations and recognition of cultural diversity.
  • Create a Council from NALC – a guide to creating a parish council or town council (where none exists already).
  • Planning Aid (England) offers free, independent and professional advice on town planning matters to community groups and individuals who cannot afford to employ a planning consultant.
  • Community Planning is a site to help people shape their cities, towns and villages.
  • International Association for Community Development “building a global network of people and organisations working toward social justice through community development”.
  • ARVAC, the sector research body, used to have a Community Research Project to help community groups to undertake research. Still worth checking what training and support is available.
  • There are some research bodies interested in community perspectives – see Research Resources page.

Community Profiling


Two (defunct) programs to help you put together and analyse surveys at a community level:

Compass for Windows was from Policy Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University, but seems to have disappeared. 30 day evaluation version, £95 + VAT single user licence for community groups. Phone 0113 283 1749, email:

Village Appraisals for Windows from Countryside and Community Research Institute. Launched April ’98, £75 for a complete pack – probably no longer available.


Community Impact Bucks (previously Bucks Community Action) had Village and Community Appraisals pages, now removed? Their definition:

a survey of an area carried out by the people who live or work there.
a way of gathering facts and opinions about the community from local people themselves.
can be conducted in a village, parish or urban community.
involves all local people and which benefits the area.
may identify what needs conserving and what needs improving or changing.

Rural Resources is experienced in community consultation – see Consultancy Services.

Also see Achieving Better Community Development – Planning and Monitoring page.

Issue based support

Support and development bodies for specific activity areas, such as health, advice, immigration.

Also see: generic national and management bodies, function-based support.


Areas of Concern pages have more links, particularly of less formal networks. Selected areas:

Also see: Trade Unions on Employing Staff page.

Health, Care, Social Care

Also see relevant Areas of Concern page.



Public Information, Law and Advice


Also see: Areas of interest – Leisure, culture, education.

  • Fields in Trust (was National Playing Fields Association) works to protect and improve recreation areas like kids playgrounds and leisure areas for older people, not just community playing fields.
  • National Community Boats Association.
  • Working on Wheels (aka National Playbus Association) – for mobile community projects – closed 2017.

Youth, Children

  • Children England provides support to voluntary and community sector organisations working with children, young people and families.
  • Children in Northern Ireland Regional umbrella organisation for the children’s sector.
  • Children in Scotland Agency for voluntary, statutory and professional organisations and individuals working with children and their families in Scotland.
  • Federation for Detached Youth Work.
  • National Council for Voluntary Youth Service closed April 2016. Some services moved to Ambition (was Clubs for Young People), such as representation for voluntary youth sector in England.
  • UK Youth network of youth associations.
  • YouthLink Scotland and its member organisations support 40,000 youth workers across Scotland.