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Promoting social, economic, environmental or cultural objectives to benefit society as a whole, or particular groups within it

About the sectorUseful contacts

About the sector

The VCFSE sector, is sometimes referred to as ‘the Third Sector’, ‘Social Purpose Sector’ or ‘Civil Society’. It is made up of groups that are independent of government and are constitutionally self-governing, usually with an unpaid voluntary management committee. They exist for the good of the community, to promote social, economic, environmental or cultural objectives to benefit society as a whole, or particular groups within it.

This sector traditionally consists of groups that meet one or more of the following:

  • Are charities – either through registration with the Charity Commission or as self-defined charities due to their annual income being below the £5,000 threshold.
  • Are non-profit-making, including not-for-profit community enterprises.
  • Are sports clubs, excluding professional clubs.
  • Are informal, unregistered, groups consisting of volunteers that act collectively to provide a service to their local community or a specific group in need.

Building on the ‘State of the Sector’ surveys undertaken in 2017 and 2020 the implications of COVID-19 on Somerset’s communities and VCFSE are identified as part of ‘Reflect, Recover, Renew’ published in 2022. The report can be accessed on this Spark Somerset page.

Useful contacts

Spark Somerset support local VCFSE organisations and community groups with development, business planning, sourcing or applying for funding or recruiting volunteers. They also support and encourage networking across the sector through newsletters and hosting local forums.

Somerset Community Foundation work to increase the impact of local philanthropy. Their website gives you more information about funds and initiatives they are involved in.

Community Council for Somerset support a range of initiatives including Village Agents Project, support for village halls and community buildings, community and neighbourhood planning, using Community Rights, funding support, energy projects, Social Enterprise Somerset and other local initiatives. There is more information on their website.

Citizens Advice Somerset is a partnership of the five local Citizens Advice charities in Somerset who have come together to provide a single point of access to advice for anyone living in the County of Somerset.

Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP)
SASP delivers physical activity programmes and provides support to voluntary organisations which offer sports and physical activity where there is no national governing body (Football Association, Motorsport UK, Bowls England, etc), with some core funding from Sport England.

Healthwatch gathers and represents the public’s views on health and social care services in England. They have statutory powers to ensure the voice of the consumer is strengthened and heard by those who commission, deliver and regulate health and care services. They also sit on the Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board.

The UK Civil Society Almanac brings together data from charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys to provide a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector  For information about registered charities, visit the Charity Commission website.

For more information, please email

Last reviewed: June 5, 2023 by Daniel

Next review due: December 5, 2023

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