A group of charity bodies have published a report aimed at helping people to understand better how charities work.
The publication, called Charity Today, has been launched to coincide with a series of programmes and articles being run across the BBC today about charities and the role they play in society.
The report, which has been produced by the charity chief executives body Acevo, the Institute of Fundraising, the communications body CharityComms and the Charities Aid Foundation, looks at the contribution made by charities and the challenges they are facing.
It says charities in England and Wales with incomes of more than £500,000 a year spend a total of £1,578 every second on charitable services, adding up to £49.8bn a year.
The report says 83 per cent of people have used a charitable service over the past year, and eight out of 10 people say that charities play a vital role in their local communities.
It also gives a snapshot of different sectors within the charity sector and gives examples of some of the work they have carried out in the past year.
For example, figures from Hospice UK say the hospice sector supports about 200,000 people with terminal conditions every year, Oxfam helped 11.6 million people in 2015/16 and animal welfare charities rescue 800 cats every week.
It explains that life for UK charities is likely to be tough for the next few years and points out that public donations are crucial.
An Acevo spokesman said Vicky Browning, its chief executive, had appeared on 14 different radio stations this morning talking about charities, and Paul Farmer, its chair, had been on six mid-morning programmes.
The spokesman said the hashtag #charitytoday had received 2.5 million hits on Twitter and had been among the most repeated phrases on the site earlier today.
Tonight's edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Bottom Line, presented by Evan Davis and broadcast at 8.30pm, will focus on the challenges of running a charity.
Browning said: "As organisations driven by values, it's vital we operate to high standards and with real transparency. In recent times, poor processes and poor practice have been revealed in some areas of the charity sector. It's right that charities respond to this – and they have.
"But while legitimate criticism is healthy, there's a danger of letting it tarnish our sense of the value of charities, disproportionately damaging their worth and ability to function. We mustn't lose sight of the huge contribution charities make in so many areas of daily life, and to the nation as a whole."