Income of the top 100 fundraising charities reached a record £9.5bn last year, according to research by Professor Cathy Pharoah of the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School.
The Top 100 Fundraising Charities Spotlight, published by the data provider Charity Financials, shows that the overall income of the top 100 fundraising charities grew by 7 per cent in 2014/15 compared with the previous year, its highest rate of growth for five years.
Cancer Research UK finished top of the list for fundraising income by a significant margin, with a total of £446.5m.
"A handful of top charities continue to dominate the market, with little change in the composition of the top 10 over the past five years," says the report, which noted that CRUK and the British Heart Foundation have occupied the first and second positions in the list throughout this period.
The NSPCC – which the report says has seen declining growth in its regular giving program in recent years because of the difficult economic climate and no legacy growth – was ranked 10th, down from fifth place four years ago.
The report focused principally on funds raised before April 2015 and so did not take into account any knock-on effect on fundraising following the high-profile death of the poppy seller Olive Cooke in May.
The research shows the charities that experienced the biggest growth in income over the past five years were The Art Fund, which grew its fundraising income by 255 per cent between 2009/10 and 2014/15; the Foundation and Friends of Kew, which supports the work of the royal botanic gardens, whose income grew by 80 per cent; and ABF the Soldier’s Charity, which reported a 60 per cent increase, including a big rise in public fundraising.
Other charities to grow significantly between 2010 and 2015 include the MND Association, which received a huge boost from its ice bucket challenge fundraising initiative in 2014; the Teenage Cancer Trust, which gained substantial publicity and funding through its high-profile beneficiary Stephen Sutton, also in 2014; and Leonard Cheshire Disability, whose growth was attributed to legacies and increased support for its international work.
The report says 54 per cent of the top 100 charities’ income came from fundraising in 2014/15, with over a third of this (34 per cent) coming from donations, excluding legacies. In 2009/10, the proportion of charities’ income which came from fundraising was slightly higher, at 57 per cent, which the report says may be due to some re-balancing of income over the past few years from voluntary to non-voluntary earned sources such as trading.
The report says that it will be difficult to predict whether charities will be able to maintain their current income levels.
"There are storm clouds on the horizon," it says.
"The full fall-out from the recent high-profile exposure of the negative fundraising practices of some charities, and the criticisms of charity regulation to which has led, may not yet have been felt."
But it says that major charities which take pro-active and innovative approaches may still be able to ride out a funding environment which again looks likely to be characterised by global economic uncertainty.
The top 10 charities by fundraising income (2010/11 ranking in brackets)
1 Cancer Research UK (1) £446.5m raised out of a total income of £634.9m
2 British Heart Foundation (2) £263.8m, £288.2m
3 Macmillan Cancer Support (6) £214.1m, £218.4m
4 Oxfam (3) £192.8m, £401.4m
5 Sightsavers (10) £184.7m, £199.7m
6 RNLI (4) £170.9m, £190.1m
7 British Red Cross (7) £139.1m, £261.8m
8 Salvation Army (9) £130m, £196.3m
9 Save the Children (13) £125.3m, £370.3m
10 NSPCC (5) £115.3m, £125.9m