The Researchery
The research surgery for the voluntary sector



UK charities

There are approximately 164,000 registered charities in the UK - these range from small, local community groups to large national and multinational household name charities, grantmaking trusts and foundations, schools and hospitals for the public benefit.

Sub-sector analysis is a vital part of mapping, comparing and assessing the UK voluntary sector. Cat's research in this area spans 9 years of working on Charities Aid Foundation's Charity Trends publication tracking the top 500 fundraising charities in the UK, as well as in-depth sub-sector analyses of the Armed Forces and Maritime charities.


Navigating Change: A Review of the UK Maritime Charity sub-sector (2017)

Seafarers are still among the
least visible of UK
workforces and continue to face
many needs unique to their
— 'Navigating Change': A Review of the UK Maritime Welfare Charity Sector

While much research has been carried out in to the needs of the Armed Forces community, very few studies have attempted to bring together research on the needs of the
maritime sector as a whole, covering the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets.

This report updates a 2007 report: ‘Supporting Seafarers and their families: Challenges for the Future’. Both reports were commissioned by the Maritime Charities Group. The last ten years have seen large upheavals in UK society. Economic recession and austerity measures have
impacted the level of provision of state-sponsored support for individuals in need, increasing the pressure
on charities via reduced funding and increased demand. At the same time, Strategic Defence Reviews and
changes in global trade and UK fishing have also impacted maritime workforces and their families.

The findings from the updated research programme provide a new picture of the current and future
landscapes, against which maritime charities can assess their priorities, and plan their services and future
financial commitments. Key findings include:

  • The population of seafarers and their families is larger and declining more slowly than previously thought
  • Seafarers from the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet need more support focused on them
  • Overall the sector has a healthy bank balance although this is largely sitting in charities serving the Royal Navy and Royal Marines
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Charity Trends and the Top 500 charities


For many years, working with the Charities Aid Foundation, we produced an index of the top 500 charities annually - their income, expenditure, and general performance. This publication had various names, starting with "Dimensions of the Voluntary Sector" and later morphing into "Charity Trends". This annual analysis allowed us to track charities year-on-year - both individually for benchmarking purposes and en masse to judge how the whole sector was doing. As such it was an indispensable annual report.

Some of this work has been carried through to the updated Foundation Giving Trends, currently published by the Association of Charitable Foundations, analysing the top 300 UK grant-making foundations.

The Armed Forces Charity sub-sector (2014)

Despite the attention given to our armed forces during the centenary of the First World War, new data shows signs that the number of armed forces charities and the amount of money donated to them are in decline. This Directory of Social Change report explores the complex world of armed forces charities - over 2000 of them, and concludes that this sub-sector is efficient, effective and under threat...