• Over 400,000 people are employed by charities with fewer than 25 staff.
  • The sector workforce has increased by 17% over a six year period.
  • There are four volunteers for every one member of staff in small charities.
  • This rises to 16 volunteers to each staff member for the smallest charities, those with an income under £100k.

How many people work for small charities?

  • In 2021*, just under half (45%) of the workforce in the voluntary sector are employed by charities with fewer than 25 staff – over 413,000 people.
  • 77,000 people (8%) work for charities with over 500 staff.

*figures from September 2021

How many people volunteer for small charities?

  • In 2016, on average, for every one member of staff four people volunteer for small charities.
  • Smallest charities have higher numbers of volunteers per paid staff member, on average. Charities with an income under £10k have on average 36 volunteers and 2 paid members of staff.

How has the small charity workforce changed over time?

  • During the 2020 COVID pandemic crisis, there was a slight increases overall in the number of people working for charities, which has since fluctuated during 2021*.
  • In 2021, the number of people working for charities with fewer than 25 employees has slightly decreased from 417,701 to 413,119. The number of people working for a charity with between 50-500 employees and over 500 employees has increased.
  • Over the past six years, the size of the voluntary sector workforce has increased by 17%. In this time, number of employees working for charities with 500 or more employees has grown by 63%.

*figures up to end of September 2021

How are small charities responding to Covid-19 as employers?

  • 52% of small charities say that they can only meet their payroll costs for the next 1-3 months, with nearly 1 in 10 (9%) not being able to meet their present payroll costs.
  • Around one-third (34%) of small charities intend to furlough staff, compared to 41% who did not. 

The number of small charities

Explore data on the size of the small charity sector and changes over time

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Explore data on board-level representation of service users and other equalities areas

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Further Reading

NCVO 2020 UK Civil Society Almanac 2020: Workforce

Living Wage Foundation 2017 Low Pay in the Charity Sector