Despite the rightful attention given to our armed forces during the centenary of the First World War, new data revealed today shows signs that the number of armed forces charities and the amount of money donated to them are in decline.

The most comprehensive analysis of the UK armed forces charities sector ever undertaken shows that the number of charities serving armed forces personnel declined by 7% over the last 5 years. In addition in 2012 the income of the majority of armed forces welfare charities declined for the first time since 2008. This is during a period when the needs of beneficiaries are set to increase due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the restructure of the Armed Forces, and cuts to the Ministry of Defence, NHS and other public services.

The analysis challenges common misconceptions held by some politicians and sections of the media that there are too many armed forces charities, they are uncoordinated and they are sitting on too much money.

In fact armed forces charities make up just 1.1% of the whole of the register of charities in England and Wales and have only 1.3% of the overall income. The total annual revenue of armed forces charities is only £807 million, compared to for example the £6.4 billion revenue generated by healthcare charities.

Despite these challenges the armed forces charitable sector shows high levels of co-ordination, co-operation and cohesiveness in serving a beneficiary base of over 6 million current and ex-service personnel and their dependants. 

Sector Insight: UK Armed Forces Charities delves into the finances, purposes and functions of over 2200 armed forces charities and is accompanied by the website, This valuable new resource provides a comprehensive searchable database of the sector for anyone wishing to better understand the armed forces charities sector. Both the publication and the website have been produced by the charity Directory of Social Change, with funding from the Forces in Mind Trust, and in collaboration with the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo).

Commenting on the project, DSC Chief Executive Debra Allcock Tyler said: ‘I have seen at first hand the brilliant work and crucial support provided by Armed Forces Charities.   Today we’re shining a light on them and the critical role they play by providing much needed evidence to donors, politicians and other decision makers. Our aim is that better information will lead to better policy and decision making.  This is about the future of support for our brave service folk and their families. They deserve it.’

Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, Ray Lock, said:  “The findings of this unique project highlight some fundamental aspects about the health and development of the military charity sector.. Now, more than ever, the need for collaboration within (and indeed without) the sector is key to its successful future.  The report shows evidence of a high degree of collaboration and cooperation relative to other charitable sub-sectors, but this is no reason to be complacent. The aim of FiMT is to provide independent, evidence-based knowledge that can be used to improve every aspect of the sector, from policy to delivery, and the reputation and track record of DSC made it the obvious partner for this seminal guide.”

Follow this link for a downloadable version of the report.


For more information please contact Alice Farrow, FiMT Press Office ( or phone (0207 284 6955 or 07788 540 924).

Press Briefing – Armed Forces Charities Insight


The publication Sector Insight: Armed Forces Charities and the accompanying website have been developed to improve understanding of the size and nature of support provided by the UK armed forces charity sector. The project has involved researching the purposes, functions and finances of over 2,200 UK-registered armed forces charities. The results show a complex but on the whole well-coordinated sector with a fine-tuned division of labour.


Key Findings

  • Claims about there being too many armed forces charities are partly driven by a lack of understanding of the huge diversity of armed forces charities operating in the sector. Contrary to received wisdom, the sector has actually contracted recently.
  • Armed forces charities cater for the needs of a potential beneficiary population of over 6 million serving personnel, ex-Service personnel and their dependants.
  • The armed forces charity sector in Great Britain generated an income of £872 million in 2012, much of which is concentrated in a relatively small number of organisations. The top 122 armed forces charities command 84% of total sector income.
  • During the recession, and contrary to the rest of the UK voluntary sector, armed forces charities overall experienced an increase in their income. However, in 2012 income for the majority of armed forces charities fell.
  • Armed forces welfare charities raise £4.37 for every £1 spent on fundraising and publicity, compared to an average of £4.86 for the UK voluntary sector as a whole.
  • The level of free reserves held by armed forces welfare charities equates to 10.9 months’ expenditure, compared to 15.4 months’ expenditure for the UK voluntary sector as a whole.
  • The armed forces charity sector shows a high degree of collaboration and cooperation relative to other charitable sub-sectors. The benevolent grant-making process in particular appears to be highly coordinated and flexible in responding to the needs of beneficiaries.
  •  New entrants into the sector are having a generally positive effect, creating new income growth which benefits the sector as a whole, as well as by addressing new needs in innovative ways.
  • At present, data on armed forces charities registered in Scotland and Northern Ireland is limited by the lack of comparable regulatory systems and standards to England and Wales, particularly access to information in charity reports and accounts. Further data would help to complete the funding picture across the UK.
  • Data on the location and needs of the Armed Forces Community (serving personnel, ex-Service personnel, and their dependants) needs to be improved. Statutory bodies such as the MOD and NHS should work with the sector to introduce better systems to identify beneficiaries and their needs.
  • About the Directory of Social Change (DSC): Founded in 1974, the Directory of Social Change (DSC) is a national charity which supports an independent voluntary sector through campaigning, training and publications. DSC is the largest supplier of information and training to the voluntary sector and its work helps tens of thousands of organisations every year achieve their aims. Learn more at