State of the Sector VI

NICVA is very pleased to announce that State of the Sector VI, the only comprehensive picture of the scale and scope of the economic activities of the Northern Ireland voluntary and community sector, is now available.

State of the Sector VI is the latest edition in the State of the Sector research programme which dates back to 1997. The publication of each edition of State of the Sector represents another step in the evolution of this type of statistical analysis and, as such, adds to the already broad and in depth knowledge of the sector by examining many of the key issues currently affecting and shaping it.

State of the Sector VI provides high level statistics on the various types of resources available to the sector and the relationship between voluntary and community organisations, government, funders and the general public.


There are approximately 4,836 voluntary and community sector organisations in Northern Ireland.

Income from all main sources in 2009-2010 is estimated to be £741.9million. The main source of funding income is from central government (34.2%), followed by the general public through charitable giving (29.7%), and a range of non-departmental public bodies and statutory agencies (17.4%).

Through analysis of the accounts, it appears that the general trend of earned income making up the majority of the sector’s income is continuing, with an estimated 58% of the sector’s income coming from the sale of goods and the delivery of services. The distribution of income throughout the sector has not changed significantly since 2008-2009.

Direct departmental expenditure in 2009-2010 in the voluntary and community sector accounted for approximately £254million. Local government, non-departmental public bodies and statutory agencies within the health and education spheres continue to distribute a significant amount of resources to the voluntary and community sector, with a combined total of around £138.2million in 2009-2010.

We also report that a total of £220million was made in donations to charities in 2009-2010. The general public has remained extremely generous to the sector in their financial contribution, with the average donation rising to £16.75 from £14.22 in State of the Sector V, despite these being tough economic times. Only a small number of donors (14%) indicated that they had decreased the amounts they gave over the last year; 84% had either increased or maintained their level of giving.

In terms of addressing the question, ‘who gives to charity?’ the most likely groups to give are females, people aged 39-49, those who are married or cohabiting, and individuals earning £250 plus per week. With regard to the popularity of charitable causes the top five most popular charitable causes are religious organisations, children and young people, medical research, health and disaster relief.

Analysis of voluntary and community sector accounts suggests that the total expenditure of the sector in 2009-2010 was in the region of £719.6million, 97% of the sector’s total income. Through an analysis of the accounts, we can estimate that the assets of the sector are £863.8million, with £475million in fixed assets and £388.8million in current assets. This overall figure compares with the figure of £735.5million reported in State of the Sector V.

The voluntary and community sector cannot be treated as a single homogenous entity, but should be viewed as a sector of great diversity and difference that is nevertheless connected by some fundamental similarities. In relation to primary sub-sectors and beneficiaries the results from State of the Sector VI are consistent with those reported in State of the Sector VWith regard to the major sub-sectors that form the overall voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, ‘community development’ (15%) and ‘children and families’ (14%) are very much to the fore, consistent with the previous report. These are followed by projects operating within health and wellbeing (8%) and education and training (7%).

In terms of beneficiaries, the pattern established in State of the Sector V is again very much in evidence, with generally only minor variations. Preschool (0-5 year olds) was the most commonly reported primary beneficiary group (11%).

There has been an increase in the number of staff employed in the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. The sector now employs around 27,773 individuals (this represents 4% of the total Northern Ireland workforce) compared with 26,737 reported in 2008. However, this is still fewer than the 28,932 reported in State of the Sector III (NICVA, 2005). This finding clearly illustrates that the sector remains an important employer in Northern Ireland.

The predominance of females in the workforce continues to be a feature of the voluntary and community sector. Seven out of ten employees are female (72%).  This is significantly higher than the female composition in both the public sector (52%) and the private sector, where less than half of employees are female (46%).

A change in this trend can be seen with regard to the number of chief executives that are female. State of the Sector V (NICVA, 2008) reported that almost two out of every three chief executives in the Northern Ireland voluntary and community sector are male. The 2010 Salary Survey (NICVA), however, reports that there is a gender balance with females now accounting for 48% of these positions.

Over 40% of the entire voluntary and community sector workforce is employed by organisations with an income of over £1million. However, there has been an 8% decrease in the number of employees who work for organisations in this income band since 2008.

Previous editions of State of the Sector

Other research publications, including previous editions of State of the Sector, are available from the NICVA Research page.

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