Civil society has grown by over 8,500 organisations between 2006 and 2008, according to the latest NCVO Almanac released today.
The figures reveal that there was a net gain of 8,681 new organisations in four types of organisation over that period and a net loss of just 147 in six types, despite the financial crisis.
The increases were seen by community interest companies (+931), co-operatives (+185), and faith groups (+646), but the largest increase was in general charities which gained 6,919 new organisations. In 2007/08 alone 4,953 new charities were registered in England and Wales.
Trade unions, credit unions, universities, housing associations, building societies and political parties all saw minor decreases, comprising the 147 net drop.
The NCVO's research shows that the UK now has 900,000 civil society organisations employing approximately 1.6 million paid workers - 200,000 more than the NHS. The figure's, according to the NCVO, are a "conservative estimate".
Voluntary sector income still growing
A total income for civil society of £157bn was recorded by the research, and income for the voluntary and community sector grew by 2.8 per cent from £34.5bn in 2006/07 to £35.5bn in 2007/8.
While donations from individuals remains the single most important funding source for the voluntary sector, it remained stable at £13.1bn for the second year running.
The sector's reliance on the government shilling continued to grow. Overall income from statutory sources rose from £11.9bn in 2006/7 to £12.8bn in 2007/8, and earned income from delivering government contracts now stands at £9.1bn, a rise of 128 per cent since 2000/01.
Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s chief executive, said: "Central and local governments have rightly recognised and made greater use of the voluntary sector’s knowledge and expertise, particularly at a grassroots level."
But he fears that with public spending cuts imminent, the positive results seen in this year’s Almanac may be countered by a stormy year ahead, and said that civil society should not be first in the firing line:
"We know there will be severe cuts in public spending in the coming months. But we should not be seen as a cheap or fluffy addition to core public services. Our work is with some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities in the country, and they stand to lose the most if vital services are cut."
Income from National Lottery distributors saw a significant drop, from £609m in 2006/7 to £523m in 2007/8 but legacies were at an all-time high of £2bn.
Spending on fundraising and publicity has risen too, up from £2.31bn to £2.57bn, and investment management costs have increased from £428m to £459m - a startling rise since its zero base in 2001/2.
The Almanac excludes 16,583 entities from the Charity Commission register with a combined income of £21.6bn that do not fall into its general charities definition. The majority are excluded because they are independent schools or universities, or because they are evangelical faith-based organisations. They include many organisations that the public may not realise are registered charities, such as exam boards.