What Is The BME Voluntary Sector?

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There is no one definition of a black and minority ethnic voluntary and community organisation (BME VCO). The BME voluntary and community sector is hugely diverse and whilst some organisations are quite clearly a part of the BME voluntary and community sector (like those delivering services to a targeted community), others sit more on the margin.

For some leadership and self determination is a defining factor, for others it is the drive to work with parts of the BME community suffering deprivation, exclusion and poverty. Some add it is not only who they work with but how they work with them.


Defining A BME Voluntary Organisation

Voice4Change England defines the BME VCO as organisations that:


  1. have a majority of the members of its governing body from BME communities in England  
  2. are voluntary and community organisations, charities and other forms of social enterprise for public and community benefit whose constitutions prohibit the distribution of surplus funds.

What Do BME Voluntary Organisations Do?

Research has shown that overall BME VCOs deliver the following services:


  • cultural, social and economic support programmes for younger, older and disabled people;
  • advocacy and advice on legal issues, immigration, race equality and equal opportunity in employment issues;
  • health services including support programmes on mental health issues and to help communities access mainstream health provision;
  • welfare and economic support services;
  • supplementary schools education and training;
  • sports and leisure and religious-based self-help; and
  • trade associations.

“Since inequalities still exist in our society there is a need for a sector that challenges that and seeks to address it through the services, the campaigning, the voice it puts forward. And I think that if the sector wasn’t there…that the voice would not be heard anywhere and it may be absorbed or diluted by other agendas.” – Shared Vision Report Interviewee

Key headlines included:


  • There are between 15,300 to 17,460 BME voluntary and community sector organisations (VCOs) in England of which 200 are estimated to be Registered Charities
  • 53% of funding for BME VCOs is from statutory sources of which 49% is from central government, 26% local government, 16% health authority, and 9% EU
  • BME VCOs have an average annual income £150K
  • The BME VCS received 3% of all charitable funding
  • The BME VCS received 2.3% of lottery grants.

Shape And Size Of The Sector

There is limited evidence on the size and make up of the BME voluntary and community sector (VCS).  We commissioned research in 2007 to try and uncover some baseline statistics.  Quality of data prevented us gaining a comprehensive picture and the external climate means things will have changed.  But we did gain a picture of just how large the sector is and how much it has historically relied on government funding. 

Evidence For The Future

Voice4Change England wants to see better data on the sector in the future and to have it centrally located so that we can demonstrate the benefits of the sector’s work to policy makers.  You can help us achieve this by:

  • Sending us any factsheets, case studies, stats or other examples on the BME VCS.
  • Making sure you monitor how BME VCOs take up and use your services and share this with us.

Send any of your data to the Voice4Change England policy team: Contact Us