• There are 163,150 voluntary organisations in the UK, of which 96% are small charities.
  • In 2020, 82% of small charities delivered services or products to achieve their mission goals.
  • 63% of small charities partnered with other charities to achieve their mission goals.
  • Charities with an income of over £1m were at least 20% more likely to deliver public sector contracts than small charities.

Where do small charities operate?

  • Small charities are considerably more likely to operate locally than charities with an income of over £1m.
  • In 2018/19, over three-quarters (77%) of small charities operate locally, compared to 58% of charities with an income over £1m.
  • Over three-quarters of charities with an income of under £10k and between £10k and £100k operate locally, 77% and 77% respectively.

How do charities strive to achieve their mission and what has changed?

  • Overall, small charities are most likely to be delivering services or products to achieve their mission with over 82% reporting they undertake this activity 'a great deal' or 'a fair amount' in 2020, up from 63% in 2017.
  • Nearly over two-thirds (63%) of small charities also report partnering with other charities to support them to achieve their mission in 2020, up from just under half of small charities in 2017.
  • Small charities were least likely to be working with the government to influence policy (23%), followed by delivering public sector contracts (25%)

How do charities’ activities differ according to their size?

  • In 2020, charities with an income of over £1m were 20% more likely to be delivering public sector contracts than small charities, the most pronounced difference by organisation size.
  • Other activities such as running buildings or physical assets and working with government to influence policy were also less likely to be delivered by small charities (17% and 14% respectively).


What causes do small charities work around?

From education and training, to housing to armed forces and emergency services…

Find out more

Public services and small charities

Find out more about small charities experiences of delivering public services

Find out more

Further reading

NCVO 2020 UK Civil Society Almanac 2020

New Philanthropy Capital 2020 State of the Sector 2020: The condition of charities before the Covid-19 crisis

Lloyds Bank Foundation, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), Sheffield Hallam University, including Sheffield Business School (SBS), the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership (CVSL) at the Open University, and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) 2018 The value of small: In-depth research into the distinctive contribution, value and experiences of small and medium-sized charities in England and Wales.

New Philanthropy Capital 2017 State of the Sector: Charities taking charge: Transforming to face a changing world