The average annual income of registered charities in England and Wales rose by 4 per cent over the past year to £391,000, Charity Commission data shows.
Figures on the Charity Commission’s website also show that over the past year the sector’s total income grew by £3.1bn – or 5.1 per cent – to £64.2bn.
The figures are based on annual returns provided by charities to the regulator during the year to the end of June 2014. Because charities have 10 months to file this information, the new data mostly relates to the financial years ending in 2013 or late 2012.
Further analysis of the figures by the accountancy firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson – based on its own records of previous data releases from the regulator – shows that total charitable expenditure rose by 3.1 per cent to £53.54bn over the same period. This equates to 87 per cent of income, a figure that has declined slightly from a peak of 89 per cent in September 2012, the firm's data shows.
Chris Harris, a partner at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, said the growth in total income was partly due to some large charities, such as universities and the Canal and River Trust, joining the register and being included in the data for the first time this year.
The CRT registered with the commission in 2012 and filed its first accounts in November 2013, so it would not have been included in the data released last year.
Voluntary income grew by £249m over the year to a total of £19.56bn. This was generated from just over £2bn spent on this purpose – meaning the sector earned nearly £10 for every pound spent on fundraising activities.
Harris said that this ratio had remained consistent in recent quarters and that the sector should be proud of this figure, given frequent public criticism of fundraising. "Not many sales activities in commercial sectors would be able to boast such returns – charities are making good use of their fundraisers," he said.
He said that the sector has been running on a "remarkably consistent" annual surplus of between 3.7 per cent and 4.2 per cent in every quarter since September 2011. "I think one might expect this to go up and down, but charities have clearly been able to manage their finances very carefully," he added. "Consistent surpluses of 4 per cent through what has been a tricky period demonstrates that the sector has been in good health and well run."