Voluntary & Community Sector Jargon Buster

One East Midlands knows that the world the voluntary and community sector is working in, whether it is alongside other VCS organisations or increasingly with public and private sector organisations, is full of initials, abbreviations and language that may be new to us.

This is why we have set up this online jargon buster, which not only includes the VCS jargon buster below, but links to other specialist jargon busters.

If you have a term, abbreviation or set of initials that you would like explaining or including in this jargon buster, or would like another specialist jargon buster developed by One East Midlands, email information@one-em.org.uk.

To access our Reach & Impact ERDF, structural funds, European funding and European Union jargon buster click here. To access our police and crime jargon buster click here and for our health and social care jargon buster click here. For a list of Government departments, ministerial posts and other parliamentary information click here.

Balance sheet

A summary of the assets and liabilities of an organisation at a particular date, usually the end of the financial year.

Benevolent societies

Societies established for charitable purposes. Benefits must be distributed wider than their members.

Capital expenditure

Expenditure on equipment or buildings.

Charitable activities

The activities that charities undertake to provide public benefit. Incoming resources from charitable activities result when these activities are performed in exchange for a fee, or through a contract to deliver public services.

Charitable foundations and trusts

Charity whose primary purpose is awarding grants to other voluntary organisations, institutions or individuals.

Charities Act

In December 2006 the government passed the Charities Act, an overhaul of the 400-year-old charity law.

Civil society

Civil society is defined in many ways. It is usually used to refer to the sphere where people come together to pursue collective interests and make a positive difference to their lives and/or the lives of others. Civil society is also used to refer to the body of organisations that exist between government, individuals and businesses.

Community foundation

A fundraising and grant-making charity established to generate resources for local charities in a specific geographical area or community and to promote the effective use of these resources.

Community interest company

A limited company which operates as a business providing community benefit.

Company limited by guarantee

An incorporated organisation which has a legal personality separate to that of its members. In the even of business ceasing, guarantors are liable to contribute a (usually very small) amount towards winding up the company.


An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Current assets

Assets that can be converted into cash with a year (i.e. cash in bank, petty cash, money owed to organisations and goods for sale).


The gradual decrease in the value of assets held.

Earned income

Income generated in exchange for goods and services through trading.


Restricted capital funds held for the purpose of generating income. Permanent endowment funds must be held indefinitely, while expendable endowments can be disposed of at the trustees' discretion.

Excepted charities

Charities with a small annual turnover and no significant assets. They are 'excepted' from registration but can choose to register if they wish to do so.

Exempt charities

Charities that are not registered and are not subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Charity Commission (e.g. universities, museums).

Fixed assets

Assets held on a long term basis. They can be either fixed assets for charitable use, which include buildings and equipment, or investments.

General charities

General charities are defined in National Account terms as "private, non-profit-making bodies serving persons". This excludes sacramental religious bodies or places of worship.

Gift Aid

A tax relief on money donated to charity. Charities can reclaim the basic rate of tax presumed to have been deducted by the donor, thereby increasing the value of the donation.

Housing stock

The number of structurally separate residential dwelling units available for non-transient occupation.

Inalienable assets

Assets which cannot be sold, usually because a charity is required to hold them indefinitely under trust aw as a result of a bequest.

Industrial and provident societies

An organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community, and is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965.


A gift or bequest of personal property or money made by a will.


That which organisations owe to creditors, either long term (payable after 12 months) such as loans or personal provisions, or short-term (payable during the next 12 months).

Mutual society

An organisation which is owned by its members and run for their benefit.

Non-profit sector

All non-profit organisations including those for private benefit, and those that are non-commericlal (e.g. housing associations). The category includes quangos and other organisations close to government (e.g. universities).

Registered charities

Charities registered with the Charity Commission. A charity must register if it has a permanent endowment, a total income of more than £5,000 a year or a rateable occupation of any land, including buildings.


That part of a charities income funds which are freely available.

Restricted funds

Funds for which the donor has specified a use. These funds must be spent in accordance with the donor's wishes and trustees cannot make the decision to remove the restriction.

Social enterprise

Trading for a social purpose. A wide range of organisations fit the definition of social enterprise. These include co-operatives, community businesses, trading arms of charities and a variety of other businesses that use their trading activity to meet social goals.

Statement of financial activities (SOFA)

Financial statement introduced especially for charities in the SORP. It replaces the income and expenditure account.

Statement of recommended practice (SORP)

Official recommendation on the way a charity should report annually on its resources and activities.

Statutory organisation

An organisation that is required by law to provide public services (i.e. statutory services) and receives central or local government funding.

Statutory funding

Any funding that comes from a government source, including funding from bodies such as the United Nations.

Third sector

Used as a synonym for voluntary sector.

Trading subsidiaries

A company, owned and controlled by one or more charities, set up in order to trade.


The group of unpaid people responsible for the control and management of a charity.

Unincorporated organisation

An association of people which has no legal constitution, and is not regarded as a entity separate from its members. Also known as informal organisations.

Unrestricted funds

Funds held for the general purposes of the charity, to be spent within the stated objects.

Voluntary income

Donations or grants that do not provide any return to the donor other than the knowledge that someone will benefit from the donation.

Voluntary sector

The group of registered charities that meet the general charities definition.


Volunteering is an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than or in addition to close relatives.

Acronyms & Abbreviations


Department for Business, Innovation and Skills


Big Lottery Fund


Charity Aid Foundation


Community Amateur Sports Club


Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis


Coordinating European Funding for the East Midlands Third Sector


Community Interest Company


Common Investment Funds


Charitable Incorporated Organisation


Company Limited by Guarantee


Common Strategic Framework

Council for Voluntary Service / Community and Voluntary Service


Department for Communities and Local Government


East Midlands Funding Advisors Network


East Midlands Voluntary Youth


European Regional Development Fund


European Social Fund


Full Time Equivalent


Gross Domestic Product


Gross Value Added


Higher Education Statistics Agency


Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs


International Classification of Non-Profit Organisations


Industrial and Provident Society


Institute for Volunteering Research

Local Authority


Labour Force Survey


Local Management Committee


National Association for Voluntary and Community Action


 National Council for Voluntary Organisations


National Employers Skills Survey


Non-Government Organisation


National Health Service


National Insurance


National Survey of Charities and Social Enterprises


Non Profit Institutions Serving Households


Office for Budget Responsibility


Office for Civil Society


Office for National Statistics

Rural Development Programme for England


Retail Prices Index (excluding mortgage interest payments)


Small and Medium-sized Enterprises


Standard Industrial Classification


Statement of Recommended Practice

Transforming Local Infrastructure


Third Sector Research Centre


Voluntary and Community Organisations


Voluntary and Community Sector