What is the Third Sector?

The third sector is a term used to describe the range of activities undertaken by organizations that are neither public nor private, for example, charities, cooperatives, and voluntary associations (VAs). Fundraising is a vital part of the work of many third-sector organizations as they rely on donations to keep their operations running. The sector is also sometimes known as the civil society or nonprofit sector. In most industrialized countries, the most significant part of the third sector consists of VAs, charities/nonprofits, and cooperative organizations. There is a growing trend for businesses to adopt some of the methods used by third-sector organizations, such as social enterprise. For example, many companies now have corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in place. The third sector has been increasingly recognized as an important part of the economy and society.