Yorkshire and the Humber is a big region with a big heart, says a new research report on the charitable sector. Funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the survey of over 1,000 charities shows that there are 341,700 people who regularly volunteer in Yorkshire - giving over 24m hours of work each year. If paid average wages, it would cost �297m to replace them.
The voluntary sector makes a big economic contribution too. Yorkshire's 10,250 Charities employ 85,000 full-time equivalent staff and the value of their wages alone is �1.8bn.
The Third Sector Trends study, which has been running in the region since 2010 shows that the charity sector in Yorkshire is more buoyant than in 2013. 18% of charities had significantly rising income compared with just 13% in 2013. In 2013, 24% of charities had significantly falling income, but now it's only 19%.
It's not all good news. Charities in the poorest areas are twice as likely to be financially vulnerable (30%) compared with the richest areas (14%).
The report's author, Professor Tony Chapman of Durham University argues that the voluntary sector makes a vital contribution due to austerity policies.
"Individual charities tend to have ups and downs in financial terms, but the sector, as a whole, is quite stable. This is good news for a region which increasingly depends on the voluntary sector to support people where public authorities can no longer fully support services."
The report shows, about a third of charities support people who are suffering from poverty, unemployment, homelessness and low pay. That's about 3,500 voluntary organisations across the region. Emma Stone, Director of Policy and Research at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says:
"The situation of people who are particularly hard pressed financially due to unemployment, low pay or insecure work is a particular worry. The research shows that many charities supporting these people are struggling themselves to maintain their income compared with some other charities."
Charities do not tackle issues in isolation. The report shows that the sector is increasingly well integrated in its efforts to tackle social issues. 87% of charities have good informal relationships with other groups. The bigger organisations are, the most likely to work together: nearly 60% bid for contracts and grants in partnership.
Sometimes an impression is given that the charitable sector is in permanent financial crisis, but the evidence shows that individual charities are very optimistic about the future. 41% of Yorkshire charities think their income will rise significantly in the next two years.
Many voluntary organisations are confident that they will attract more volunteers (45%). But as professor Chapman warns: "The sector is always hungry to achieve more, and given current trends in income and volunteering, there's a risk of disappointment for many charities who may have to settle for stability rather than dramatic growth in income and volunteer numbers in future."