A guide to the charity sector in Scotland

Image result for scottish charity sectorScottish charities make up what is called the “third” or voluntary sector – the other two being the public sector (government; both local and national) and the private sector (commercial companies whose purpose is to make a profit. Other phrases used to describe charities include:


  • Non-Profits
  • Non-Governmental Organisations
  • Good Causes

Scotland has over 23,000 charities, employing 138,000 people.  They include a wide range of organisations including international aid providers, community groups, schools, churches universities and family centres.

What they all have in common; and what distinguishes them from other organisations are three key organisational necessities:

  • Charities cannot be set up to make a profit
  • Charities must be governed by volunteers
  • Charities must declare exactly what it is that they have been set up to do, and have this approved before they can do it

The organisation that approves what charities do, and checks that they are doing it properly is OSCR (the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator).  All charities in Scotland must submit a range of information to OSCR to show that they are behaving properly as a charity.  Because OSCR makes this information public, the OSCR website (www.oscr.org.uk) is also a good place to look to find out more about an individual charity.

Charities employ a huge range of people with many different skills.  Around 75% of charity staff hold non-fundraising roles such as carers, social workers, therapists, project managers and many other types of specialist staff to work directly with the beneficiaries of the charity.

Like any other organisation, charities also need people to keep them running smoothly, and charities also employ finance, HR, administration, legal, marketing, fundraising and management personnel.