Fundraising income and spending both fell by £300m last year, an in-depth study of the top charity brands has found.
Examination by Third Sector of the most recent accounts of the 155 charities that make up the Charity Brand Index list of best-known charities found that overall fundraising income fell from £5.1bn to £4.8bn last year.
Spending on fundraising income also fell from £1.6bn to £1.3bn, the research showed.
But legacy income rose from £1.5bn to £1.6bn, according to the research.
Legacies are included in the overall fundraising income figures, which means that legacies have helped to mask the size of falls in other types of fundraising income.
Charities are also covering the falls in fundraising income with other sources of money. The research found that the overall income among the top 155 charities increased from £11.4bn to £11.7bn.
The figures come from the most recent accounts – broadly covering the years 2017 and 2017/18 – of the 155 charities that make up Third Sector’s Charity Brand Index, which includes the most prominent names in the charity sector.
The findings are also consistent with recent Third Sector research into the top-10 fundraising charities, which found that legacy income had grown by 13.5 per cent, while income from other types of donation had fallen by 3.6 per cent over three years.
The latest research based on the Charity Brand Index also found that the mean average amount raised from donations per charity fell from £32.7m to £31.4m, and the median amount raised also fell from £13.2m to £12.9m.
The mean average amount spent on fundraising was £8.9m, down from £10.2m, according to the research.
But the mean average amount raised in legacies was £13.5m, up from £9.7m.
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and external affairs at the Institute of Fundraising, said the latest figures reflected the impact of a number of challenges the fundraising sector faced last year, such as preparing for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation.
He said: "Fundraising is the most important source of income for the charity sector. We know that charities have taken lots of action to review their strategies and change their approach over recent years to adopt a longer-term approach, which might account for the reported decrease in fundraising income.
"However, we know that it takes money to raise money, and it’s interesting that the decrease in spend is greater in proportion than the decrease in income.
"Investing in generating income is key to fundraising success for organisations, and I hope to see more charities reviewing their strategies and decisions to ensure continued fundraising success in the future."
A different cut-off point was used in this year’s analysis – 1 February rather than 1 December – to ensure that this year’s figures included all of the 2017 and 2017/18 accounts filed by the charities included in the study.