Trends & data analysis

Royal British Legion continues its reign as UK’s dominant military charity

09 November 2017

As Armistice Day approaches, data from Charity Financials shows that the Royal British Legion, best known for its annual Poppy Appeal, continues to raise far more money than any other military charity operating in the UK...

It also reveals the extent to which some military charities rely on fundraising (all voluntary income minus that coming from government sources, plus event fundraising and sale of donated goods) to pay for the services they provide to current and former members of the armed services, or to maintain some of the country’s most important museums and memorials.

The Royal British Legion has a total annual income of £151.256 million, according to data from Charity Financials. The Legion’s annual income is greater than the combined annual incomes of the next three largest military charities (The Black Stork Charity, SSAFA and Help for Heroes). Fundraising supplies almost two thirds of the charity’s income, £96.715 million, which is more than the total amount collected through fundraising by the next ten largest UK military charities.

Second and third largest

The second largest annual income among these charities is generated by the Black Stork Charity (£53.884 million). This is a relatively new organisation, which is currently using donations from individuals, charitable foundations and businesses to build a new state of the art Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, to provide rehabilitation services to civilians as well as members of the military. 

Soldiers Sailors Airmen and Families (SSAFA) has the third largest overall income (£53.819 million), of which just over £9 million comes from fundraising – a larger share of its income comes via NHS or health and social care public sector contracts.


Reliance on fundraising

The data also reveals the extent to which some of the charities that focus primarily on supporting veterans rely on fundraising. For example, Help for Heroes, which has the fourth largest income of £36.515 million, generated £30.368 million of that total through fundraising. Blind Veterans UK, the next charity on the list, had an income of £27.82 million, of which £20.488 million came from fundraising.

The military charities that are most dependent upon fundraising are not primarily providers of medical or other support services to current or former members of the armed services. They include the Edinburgh Military Tattoo Charities, which obtains £15.467 million of its £15.889 million total income via fundraising; the Royal Air Force Museum (fundraising income £13.142 million, total annual income £17.211 million); and the National Memorial Arboretum Company (fundraising income £7.879 million and total income £11.544 million).  

Income v expenditure

The data also reveals which charities’ expenditure outstripped their income during this period. They include Help for Heroes (which spent £40.492 million against an annual income of £36.515 million), Blind Veterans UK (income of £27.82 million, expenditure £34.331 million), the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society (income £13.043 million, expenditure £16.592 million); and Care for Veterans (income £4.786 million, expenditure £4.925 million).

The total income of the 250 military charities in the dataset was over half a billion, at £568.554 million, of which £210.702 million came from fundraising. These figures underline the huge contribution these organisations – and by extension, the public – make to the welfare of both serving and former members of the armed forces; and to spreading awareness of the forces’ history and their work today.


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David Adams

David is a freelance journalist and associate at Slack Communications. 

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