The third sector is an overarching term which includes charities, social enterprises, community groups and other non-profit bodies that have been established for social or environmental benefit. The sector is diverse, but shared features include:
- A constitution or other governing document which defines the organisation’s social or environmental purposes and ensures that it is governed in an accountable and transparent way.
- An ‘asset lock’, meaning that revenues are used solely for specified purposes or are re-invested in the organisation and that any assets remaining upon the cessation of the organisation will be distributed to another with similar purposes.
- Independence from the state (public sector).
It is often assumed that the third sector is staffed and run by unpaid volunteers, however this is not actually the case. While the majority of third sector organisations are required to be governed by unpaid directors or committee members, the sector employs around 140,000 people in Scotland (roughly similar to NHS staffing numbers) and is heavily reliant upon paid, professional staff to deliver essential services.
For more info about the third sector and the national context, visit SCVO’s website.