Defining and Researching NGOs >> How many NGOs are there in Britain in 2009?

We were often asked how many NGOs there were in Britain. How this question was answered depends on how one defined an NGO.

There are currently about 1,800 organisations registered in the DANGO database with full details, but DANGO is not exhaustive, and focused on organisations which were socio-political actors, broadly defined (we excluded, for example, all sports and purely recreational organisations; see our working definition).

It is possible to measure the sector in a number of different ways: there are about 170,000 charities in the UK, up from 100,000 15 years ago. These charities have an income of £26 billion and assets of £66 billion, while a paid workforce of over 600,000 is complemented by a volunteer army twice that size. On the alternative measure of voluntary associations, nearly 5,500 are (paying) members of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the sector's umbrella body for England. To take specific examples, by 1995 the environmental sector alone consisted of 18,000 paid workers and 44,000 volunteers. International agencies operating from Britain employed 54,000 people and the number of people volunteering in issues of health, social services and housing amounted to well over half a million. If one looks to the individual level, 29 per cent of Britons formally volunteer every month, rising to 44 per cent ever year. Moreover, every year 38 per cent of us contact an elected representative or government official, attend a public meeting or rally, take part in a demonstration, or sign a petition. Further evidence of social action can be gained from the huge demonstrations of recent years: 250,000 in Edinburgh in 2005 in support of Make Poverty History; 400,000 in 2002 backing the Countryside Alliance in its defence of fox hunting; and anywhere between one and two million turning out in 2003 to oppose the impending war in Iraq.

(from Crowson, N; McKay, J; Hilton, M. NGOs in Contemporary Britain: Non-State Actors in Society and Politics Since 1945: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009).

(see also: researching NGOs).

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