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Understanding Faith-Based Charities by David Bull and Rachel Wharton

April 30, 2016

NPCMORE than a quarter of Britain’s thousands of charities are based on faith, a new report says. The part played by religion in the charity sector is studied. Most religious charities are Christian. Muslim and Jewish charities come next.

In what it describes as “the most advanced and up-to-date analysis of faith-based charities in Great Britain”, the report says that, out of a total of 187,495 organisations, 49,881 (27 per cent) have a religious motiva­tion or history. The statistics are broadly similar across England and Wales, although Scotland has a slightly lower proportion of such charities, at 22 per cent.

The rise in religious charities in the past few years has been staggering, the report says: 9000 were founded between 2006 and 2014 — a period when church at­tendance was in decline.

The co-author of the report, Rachel Wharton, who is the policy and development officer at NPC, said: “Faith and charity have long gone hand-in-hand. But, while research exists into the influence of faith on giving, volunteering and communities, remarkably little is known about the effect of faith on how charitable organisations oper­ate and what they can achieve.”

She described the motivation behind the report as being “to plug the gap” in knowledge in this area, “especially in the current environ­ment of reduced funding, increas­ing need, and shifting public opin­ion”.

However, “Kicking off our research programme into faith-based charities last year, it is fair to say we didn’t appreciate the complexities ahead. While we might have expected some debate about the changing role of faith in our society or the increased diversity of the population, we didn’t anticipate that the data itself would be such a challenge.”

“If faith-based charities can achieve things that other organisa­tions can’t, or can work in situ­ations that others aren’t able to, then as a sector we should under­stand this better, and consider how we can work more effectively to­gether to deliver for those we aim to help.”

The NPC plans to conduct further analysis into charitable income by faith.

At two pages, it’s very brief.


From a total population of 187,495 registered charities in Great Britain2, 49,881 are faith-based—over a quarter.

the majority of faith-based charities as Christian or of a Christian tradition. The next largest category is ‘Generally faith-based’, which are organisations identifiable as faith-based but not able to be categorised as a specific faith

While we do not claim that our data provides an absolute ‘correct’ answer, it is a significant improvement on what was available before and ensures our research programme is based on recent statistics and a methodologically sound approach. This paper presents only initial findings. The dataset provides the possibility for much further analysis, for instance examining charitable income by faith, geographical distribution of faith-based charities, comparisons of faith-based charities against population size, and trends in the size and shape of the faith-based sector. We plan to do some further analysis, which will be complemented by a survey with both faith-based and non faith-based charities, qualitative research and ongoing engagement with the sector so that we can explore different faith communities and further our understanding of faith and charity.

The report can be downloaded from here

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