Third Sector Organisations

Third sector organisations is a term used to describe a range of organisations that are neither public sector nor private sector. It includes:

  • voluntary organisations
  • community organisations
  • registered charities
  • associations,
  • self-help groups
  • community groups
  • social enterprises
  • mutuals
  • co-operatives


Third Sector Organisations generally:

  • are independent of government
  • are ‘value-driven’, they are motivated by the desire to achieve social goals rather than the desire to distribute profit
  • reinvest any surpluses generated in the pursuit of their goals. For this reason, third sector organisations are sometimes called ‘not-for-profit organisations’.


Third sector organisations can take a number of legal forms. Many are simple associations of people with shared values and objectives. Many have company status but with a not-for-personal-profit approach. Very many have charitable status or are community interest companies, industrial and provident societies or co-operatives.

In October 2010, the Government published its strategy to support charities, voluntary groups and social enterprise. It is committed to ensuring that charities, social enterprises and cooperatives have a much greater role in the running of public services.

Benefits of Third Sector Organisations

Public services can gain a lot from working with third sector organisations, such as:

  • Understanding of the needs of service users and communities that the public sector needs to address
  • Closeness to the people that the public sector wants to reach
  • Ability to deliver outcomes that the public sector finds it hard to deliver on its own
  • Innovation in developing solutions
  • Performance in delivering services


Third Sector Organisations also speak out for people and their needs to the public sector and wider society. Such activity may be based on a local, drop-in advice service for people with unmanageable debt, right through to a charity’s national communications campaign.

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