Income and Expenditure

Total funding, including grants and contracts, to the voluntary and community sector:



You can find the data used in the charts on NICVA's Data Portal.

Estimating the economic size of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland is a complicated task and one that is determined by the availability and accessibility of data from a wide range of sources. The State of the Sector research programme has produced a body of evidence that allows an assessment of the sector’s finances to be made over a significant period of time.

The analysis presented in this section will examine the 2014-2015 funding environment with information collected through Freedom of Information requests, directly from funders, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, 360 Giving, NICVA’s own database and to a lesser extent the Government Funders Database. You can find out more about the methodology behind the Income and Expenditure section here.

 1.0  Economic Distribution of Organistions

State of the Sector 2017 examines the income distribution of voluntary and community organisations. This 2015-2016 data was sourced from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland online register resource on the 1st August 2017.



Table 1: Income distribution of voluntary and community organisations
Income BracketNumber 2015-162015-16 %2013-14 %
less than £10,00032431.833.1
£10,001- £20,00011511.710.6
£20,001 - £50,0001621713.2
£50,001 - £100,00013413.511.3
£100,001 - £250,00014013.711.9
£250,001 - £500,000454.78.9
£500,001 - £1 million333.35.2
£1 million - £5 million373.54.2
£5 million +90.81.6
Source: Charity Commission for Northern Ireland online register resource on the 1st August 2017
  • In previous editions of State of the Sector NICVA surveyed organisations to gather information on the economic distribution of the sector. This time a different method was used. NICVA utilised income information from the Charity Commission NI website examining the 2015-2016 financial year as only 95 accounts were available on the commission’s website for 2014-2015.
  • While a direct comparison cannot be made to the previous State of the Sector due to the use of a different methodology, this edition found similar results with regard to organisations that have an income of £20,000 or less. In the previous edition of State of the Sector NICVA reported that 43.7% of organisations had this income. The data available from CCNI found that in 2014-2015 43.5% of organisations reported that they fall within this income bracket.
  • This edition found that there is an increase in the percentage of organisations that have an income of between £20,001 and £250,000. For 2013-2014 NICVA reported that a quarter of organisation had this income however data available from the Charity Commission for 2015-2016 shows an increase to 30.5%.
  • NICVA reported that in 2013-2014 1.6% of organisations had an income of £5 million or more. CCNI data however shows that of the organisations that have updated accounts, 0.8% fall within this income band.
  • Unsurprisingly organisations with an income of more than £1 million continue to hold a dominant position in the sector. While these organisations make up 5.8% of the sector’s composition they receive two thirds (66.8%) of the total income.
  • Organisations with an income of less than £50,000 receive a very small percentage of the total income (2%).
  • Where this report has seen a drop in the percentage of total income is within the £100,000- £250,000 income band which in 2012 had 11% of the total income compared to 6.2% in 2013-2014.

 2.0  Funding

 2.1  Central Government

The figures for 2014-2015 reported below outline direct departmental expenditure. The majority of data was sourced from the Government Funding Database. Some under-reporting of expenditure was identified in the database and where this was the case, additional data was sought directly.



  • The Government Funders Database has recently made changes to how it displays funding information. Since the amalgamation of Northern Ireland Government Departments in 2016, the database now displays funding awarded in the 2014-2015 financial year under the new departments and therefore a direct comparison cannot be made with previous years.
  • The Department for Communities provided the highest funding to the sector in 2014-2015 with 48% of the total direct central departmental funding coming for this department.
  • The Department for the Economy provided 30% of direct departmental funding to the sector with £71 million awarded from this source.
  • The Department of Education and The Executive Office also awarded significantly funding with over £33 million coming from these sources.
  • The department which contributed least funding is the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (£691,668). This is consistent with previous State of the Sector research which reported that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of the Environment awarded significantly less funding to the sector compared to other departments.


 2.2  Non-Departmental Public Bodies and Other Statutory Bodies

This report continues to examine the funding relationship between non-departmental public bodies and the voluntary and community sector. Information was not accessible for all bodies and agencies as they are either under-reported or lie outside the current remit of the Government Funding Database. As a result, this resource only references to those non-departmental public bodies were data was accessible.


  • The above graph continues to demonstrate the strong relationship between the sector and non-departmental public bodies with over £233 million awarded by 22 non-departmental public bodies in 2014-2015.
  • The heath sector, which includes the Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board and the five Health and Social Care Trusts, provided the largest funding with a total of £112 million.
  • The Northern Ireland Housing Executive awarded the second largest funding to the sector, with a total award of £65,883,008 in 2014-2015.
  • The education sector, which included the then five Education and Library Boards, awarded over £22 million in funding, an increase from £19.6 million in the previous financial year.
  • The Arts Council provided funding of over £19 million, including nearly £4 million of funding through its annual funding programme to the MAC, Lyric Theatre and the Ulster Orchestra.
  • Smaller funding grants were also provided by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Ulster Scots Agency and Northern Ireland Museum Council, totalling £1,451,491.

Data from Non-Department Public Bodies was sourced through Freedom of Information requests.

 2.3  Local Government

In previous State of the Sectors NICVA used several sources to gather information on local council funding to voluntary and community organisations including the Government Funders Database, direct requests for information from council staff and in some cases Freedom of Information requests. For this edition NICVA relied solely on Freedom of Information requests due to large cases of under reporting on the Government Funders Database. The outcome of this approach is that this edition is reporting a much larger funding relationship between councils and the sector than before. In 2013-2014 NICVA reported that the 26 legacy councils funded the sector a total of £5,622,960. This has increased to £15,836,736 in the 2014-2015 financial year.

Table 2: Local council funding to voluntary and community organisations
District Council2013-14 £2014-15 £
Dungannon & South Tyrone43,8281,592,700
Newry and Mourne52,324997,323
North Down49,298123,309
Source: Freedom of information Requests
  • Table 2, above, shows that Belfast City Council awarded the largest amount of funding to the sector, nearly £2.8 million. This is unsurprising as 27% of voluntary and community organisations are based in the greater Belfast area.
  • Other councils that have strong funding relationships with the sector including Dungannon & South Tyrone, Derry and Down councils each of which funded organisations within their area over £1 million.
  • The council which contribute least funding to the sector was Ballymoney Borough Council, awarding £61,950 in the 2014-2015 financial year.
  • The average (mean) funding awarded by councils to the sector is £609,105.

 2.4  Irish Government

This State of the Sector research tried to uncover the amount of funding organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland received from the Irish Government. This was very challenging, however NICVA did discover that through its Reconciliation Fund the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade funded the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland approximately £891,236 in 2014-15.

 2.5  Europe

In 2014-2015 the voluntary and community sector continued to receive funding from European programmes. The figures in the table below reflect only those awards allocated to projects or sub-projects for which the lead partner or organisation responsible for the delivery of the project was identified as a voluntary and community organisation when submitting the initial application for funding. It is possible that other voluntary and community organisations have been involved in projects in receipt of funding and worked with, for example, a public sector lead partner, in which case they have not been include in the results. These figures therefore cannot be used as an exact reflection of the contribution of the programme to the sector.

Table 3: European funding to the voluntary and community sector
European Funding Programmes2013-14 £2014-15 £
Peace III799,681426,305
Interreg IVA--
NI ESF10,800,00010,100,000
Source: SEUPB provided Peace and Interreg figures, the ESF Management Authority in the Department for the Economy provided figures for NI ESF.
  • Peace funding has always been an important funding stream to the voluntary and community sector and it contributed more than £425,000 in 2014-2015.
  • This report was unable to get an accurate figure for the INTERREG Programme. In the 2014-2015 financial year, no voluntary or community organisations were the lead applicants and therefore SEUPB have reported that no monies were awarded to organisations that classified themselves as from this sector. This in no way means that organisations from the sector did not receive INTERREG funding, simply that the lead applicants were more likely to be statutory bodies, and it was through those bodies that money was allocated to sector organisations.
  • The Northern Ireland European Social Fund (ESF) Programme continues to invest significant funding in the voluntary and community sector. In the 2014-2015 financial year the EU Comimission provided £10.1 million of funding to the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. This is £700,000 less than the previous financial year.
  • While European funding is still a important source for the sector this resource reports a reduction of over £1 million between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

There are some caveats with regard to the Peace III and INTERREG figures in the above table. Please visit the Methods resources to view these.

 2.5  Lottery

Every year the Big Lottery Fund awards millions of pounds to causes across Northern Ireland through a range of funding programmes. The Big Lottery Fund has made a commitment that 80% of its funding will be distributed to the voluntary and community sector. The actual percentage varies on a year to year basis depending on the nature of the funding programmes available. The remaining 20% is distributed to partnerships involving the sector.

Table 4: Big Lottery Fund awards
Financial YearTotal commitments to NI £Total new awards to NI £Awards to VCS £Awards to VCS %
Source: Big Lottery Fund NI

In the 2014-2015 financial year Big Lottery NI committed 93.6% of its total awards in Northern Ireland to the voluntary and community sector. While the percentage of awards made in 2014-2015 was slightly greater than in 2013-2014 (1.4%) nearly £4.9 million more of funding was awarded in the 2014-2015 financial year to the sector compared the the previous financial year.

 2.6  Overall Funding to the Sector

This section examines the percentage of funding awarded to the sector from different sources. Funding which was provided directly from central government and through non-departmental public bodies accounted for three quarter of funding to the sector (76.4%). As reported in the last State of the Sector report the general public continue to generous to the sector also and donated £52.8 million to the sector.

Table 5: Overall Funding to the Sector
Funding source2013-14 £2013-14 %2014-15 £2014-15 %Change in proportion of total 2013-14 to 2014-15
Central Government150,054,75726.1234,688,77738.3+12.2
Non-departmental public bodies286,459,53349.8233,708,80438.1-11.7
General public52,789,6089.252,789,6088.6-0.6
Grant Making Trusts60,080,63910.551,458,9288.4-1.9
Local Government5,622,9601.015,836,7362.6+1.6
Big Lottery8,145,1481.413,029,5772.1+0.7
Irish Foreign Office--891,2360.1+100

This section also reports on the level of funding awarded to the sector by Grant Making Trusts. The level of funding awarded from this source has decreased between 2013 and 2015. In the 2013-2014 financial year £60 million was awarded from these sources. This decreased to £52.4 million in the 2014-2015 financial year. One reason for this is that investments from large grant making trusts decreased. One example is Atlantic Philanthropies which awarded £36.1 million in 2013-2014. However this decreased to £20.4 million in 2014-2015.

 3.0  Earned Income

Analysis of the survey responses suggests that there has been a slight decrease in the percentage of organisations that have earned income, dropping from 58% in 2009-2010 to 52.8% in 2013-2014.

 4.0  Expenditure

  • Analysis of organisation accounts suggests that the total expenditure of the sector in 2014-2015 was 95% of its income, an increase from 93% in 2013-2014. If we equate that percentage to total funding in the sector, the total expenditure would be in the region of £587million.
  • Trends in how the sector expends it resources have changed relatively little with 87.6% of expenditure being used for the purpose of charitable activities, a slight increase of 0.8% on the previous financial year.
  • This report found that 9% of income was invested in income generation and commercial activities. The amount of expenditure on governance has not changed since 2013-2014 (1.7%).

This State of the Sector also examines the percentage of expenditure of organisations broken down by income level.

Table 6: Expenditure of organisations by income bracket
Income bracketCharitable activities %Governance %Income Generation %Commercial %Other %Number orgs analysed







£250,001 - £500,000

£500,001-£1 million 4.055

£1,000,0001- £5 million

£5,000,001 +
Source: Charity Commission NI and Companies House

While the average expenditure on charitable activities in the sector is 87.6%, organisations within income of between £10,001 and £50,000 spent more than 95% of income on these activities. On the other end of the scale organisations with an income of more than £5 million spent 48% on charitable activities and 50% on commercial activities. This is unsurprising as organisations are investing in other ways for financial sustainable during a time of funding uncertainty.

Organisations with an income of less than £10,000 spent more on governance cost compared to other income brackets. While average expenditure on governance in 2014-2015 was 1.7%, organisations within this income bracket spent 11.3% of their expenditure in this area.