Fundraising income for the UK's largest charities could fall by £185m in 2009 compared with the previous year, according to the latest Charity Market Monitor report, published last week.
The report, written by Cathy Pharoah of Cass Business School, is based on annual accounts filed by the biggest 300 fundraising charities in 2007 and 2008.
It shows that overall income rose by 0.9 per cent on the previous year, a figure similar to the 0.7 per cent growth in the wider economy over the same period. If this correlation continues, income is likely to decline significantly in the year ahead, the report says.
"Fundraising income appears to be particularly close to the 'temperature' of the wider economy," it says. "If fundraising were to follow the 3.5 per cent contraction predicted for the national economy as a whole in 2009, that could mean a loss of £185m to the major fundraising charities, on current incomes."
The report highlights several other trends in charity income, including the rapid growth of the top 10 largest fundraising charities.
The top 10 saw their income grow by 2.3 per cent last year, compared with the 0.9 per cent overall average growth for the top 300 charities.
The top 10 charities are the same as the previous year, with the RNLI moving above the NSPCC into third place, the Salvation Army moving ahead of the RSPCA into seventh and the British Heart Foundation moving ahead of Save the Children into ninth.
The report also highlights marked differences in sub-sectors, with income increasing by 79 per cent for arts charities and falling by 17 per cent for faith-based charities.
The overall value of donations fell by 1.6 per cent, but legacy income rose by 8 per cent. However, the report says legacies are likely to suffer when the effects of the recession set in.
The report also predicts sharp falls in the value of grants from charitable trusts and foundations, including corporate trusts, because of the recession.
Charitable expenditure by the top 300 charities was £7.5bn for the period - about 74 per cent of total income. This was an increase of only 0.2 per cent on the previous year.
"Charitable expenditure barely grew, possibly revealing an extremely cautious attitude towards expenditure by trustees who are anxious and uncertain about the depth of the recession," the report says.
TOP 20 CHARITIES BY FUNDRAISING INCOME £M (ROUNDED DOWN)
1 Cancer Research UK 353m
2 Oxfam 207m
3 RNLI 141m
4 NSPCC 124m
5 British Red Cross Society 123m
6 Macmillan Cancer Support 106m
7 Salvation Army Trust 106m
8 RSPCA 99m
9 British Heart Foundation 93m
10 Save the Children UK 87m
11 Tate 79m
12 National Trust 74m
13 PDSA 73m
14 Marie Curie Cancer Care 71m
15 Christian Aid 66m
16 Sightsavers International 65m
17 RSPB 62m
18 Guide Dogs for the Blind 60m
19 RNIB 55m
20 World Vision UK 54m
Source: Charity market monitor 2009