How dependent is the third sector on public funding? Evidence from the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations

Working paper 45

There is considerable interest in the amount of public funding which third sector organisations receive. We present a new perspective on the topic by analysing data from the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations (NSTSO), a representative sample of 48,000 third sector organisations in England. We begin by reviewing available data sources, concluding that the NSTSO is a good source for estimating the proportion of third sector organisations which receive public funding.  

We use the survey data to provide information on the numbers of organisations which received public funding in 2008, and the numbers which considered it their most important income source.  We show how exposure to public funding varies between organisations: those that were bigger, newer, those located in more deprived areas, and those serving socially excluded or vulnerable people were more likely to receive public funding than other organisations.  Finally, we consider the relationship between the patterns revealed and organisation-level perceptions of the adequacy of funding and reserves.

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Research contact:

John Mohan

David Clifford

Frida Geyne Rajme