Collecting and classifying data from charity accounts for England and Wales

Working Paper 93 - January 2013

A key research need for the voluntary sector is consistent, reliable and useful data on the finances of voluntary organisations. There have been a number of challenges involved in collecting data from charity accounts. This paper describes a new process, developed by the Third Sector Research Centre and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, for collecting this data. We aim to create a shared, consistent dataset that will provide a rigorous base for future study of the voluntary sector.

We devised a sample of 10,000 charities, designed to permit totals - such as total statutory income - to be accurately estimated by size, region and sub-sector. The sample also enables us to gain insight into proportions - such as the proportion of organisations in receipt of statutory income. Procedures were developed to sort income sources into categories that could be used to analyse the data in more detail.

We believe that this initiative will be of considerable value for research on the sector. It enables data to be presented in a more easily accessible format - with advantages for regulators, researchers and others who use accounts. More generally, it improves our knowledge of the amount and distribution of funding streams within the sector, and enables us to track a consistent set of organisations - and their funding - over time. 

It also offers a representative sample of organisations, established at a critical time for the sector. This will allow us to pick up the effects of the recession as well as changes in the amount and distribution of public funding after 2010.

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