Have charities got too big?

Charities in the UK come in all shapes and sizes. Just like businesses, there are a smaller number of very large organisations, some that are medium sized, and then a very large number of small ones.

The size of individual charities

There have always been some larger charities and some smaller ones, and there are advantages to both.

When it comes to things such as delivering international aid or carrying out medical research, the size of the task and the expertise and resources required often mean that only organisations of a sufficient scale can carry out this work. The bigger these charities are, the more they can do. And sometimes it can be more efficient for a smaller number of larger organisations to do something than a larger number of small organisations.

Many large charities also support smaller charities. For example, Age UK is a large national charity that works with and supports over 150 independent local Age UK charities.

There are also some advantages to smaller charities. Many smaller charities are firmly rooted in their communities and can be nimble in responding to new ideas and initiatives.

Whatever their size, charities have to be established for public good, and they have to be accountable.

The size of the charity sector

Between them, the income of the UK’s charities has grown over time. It increased notably in the 2000s not least because of a move to have more public services run by charities (read more). Successive governments have recognised that expert charities can run public services to a high standard. Since 2008, charities’ total income has been broadly stable, neither significantly increasing nor decreasing. (See the stats.)

Charities are playing a bigger role in society than in previous decades. That means that the charity sector as a whole is doing more than ever before, with charities working to high professional standards.

Fake charities and charity fraud: what to watch out for

While they are relatively rare, sometimes people run scams where they pretend to be collecting for a fake charity. You should avoid giving to such collectors. Real charity collectors will always be happy for you to give online or send a cheque later if you would prefer to.

Signs of fake charity collections to look out for:
  • The collector is vague about what the charity’s name is or what it does.
  • There is no charity name or registration number visible.
  • The charity registration can’t be verified on the Charity Commission website.

If the fraud is in the name of a genuine charity, please let the charity know so that they can pursue the fraudsters.