Official data is patchy and limited. While all three charity regulators offer free data downloads, data differs between them. In addition, charities have 10 months to submit their annual accounts, so official data is always slightly outdated. Smaller charities usually have to provide little information, so even fewer data is available. There is also a mismatch between data that’s available through the public register versus the data downloads.
Data does not cover all social organisations. While there is quite a lot of data on registered charities, it does not cover all civil society organisations. Data for some other types, e.g. social enterprises, community benefit societies or cooperatives, can be found on Companies House or the Mutuals register. While there is very little information on below the radar organisations.
Data is often too broad. While knowing the total number of charities and their income can be helpful, understanding the local picture or specific subsectors is often more useful. However, there is no single classification for subsectors and geographic breakdowns are always impacted by a head office effect, i.e. where charities are registered is not necessarily where they operate.
For more limitations and what’s needed, take a look at the latest report by Pro Bono Economics or this article as part of the Data Collective.