The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) are to create a data resource that will improve the evidence base for the voluntary sector, particularly in relation to its finances and resources over the past decade.

The data bank will be the culmination of three years' worth of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to collect data from a sample of 10,000 charities in England and Wales, building on the research NCVO and TSRC already carry out for the annual UK Civil Society Almanac. It will be used to estimate the resources of all charities and indicate how financially healthy charities are. The central aim of the initiative is to increase access to data by the voluntary sector, helping organisations to build their capacity to analyse and use data themselves.

A second grant from the ESRC will build data resources on a wider range of civil society organisations, such as Community Interest Companies, and fund analysis of the voluntary sector through emerging data sources such as open data released by grant-makers and spending data released by government bodies.

In addition to carrying out research, NCVO and TSRC will offer a series of outreach events for voluntary organisations to show how the data can be used. Examples could include measures of the financial vulnerability of organisations and risk-based indicators such as exposure to particular funding streams. The data bank will be free to use, easy to search and will enable organisations and funders to view trends over time, as well as to search by region and work area.

The UK Civil Society Almanachas been publishing data from the accounts of 10,000 charities in England and Wales since 2006-7. The Economic and Social Research Council has awarded two sets of funding, the first of which will ensure that the research can continue for a further three years and have a broader scope, and the second to fund analysis of wider civil society organisations and open data. The next edition of the Almanac will be published in June.

Nick Ockenden, Head of Research at NCVO said, "We're delighted to have received funding to work with TSRC on these very important projects. The information we'll collect will help to paint an accurate picture of the voluntary sector and help charities demonstrate the difference they make to society. Being able to access and use this data will help charities to become more effective and make an even bigger difference in the longer term." 

John Mohan, Director of the Third Sector Research Centre, said, "TSRC and NCVO have collaborated for several years to develop the evidence base on the third sector. These projects will provide a firm foundation for the future development and enhancement of that evidence base. They will also enable important pilot work on emerging data sources on public sector procurement and grant-making. We look forward to working with ESRC on future developments in this field." 


  1. Data and analysis produced as part of this research will be published in NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac and will also be publicly available online. 
  2. Funding from the ESRC will focus on two areas, firstly to capture data using charity accounts and secondly to increase capacity building and knowledge sharing across the voluntary sector. The funding is worth approximately £386,000 in total.
  3. For more information contact Helen Raftery, 020 7520 2424.
  4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.