There is a debate surrounding the implications of big charities' increasing dominance of total charitable income, but no empirical work which assesses whether indeed big charities are becoming increasingly dominant. We provide this assessment from both cross-sectional and longitudinal perspectives, using a panel data set with information on charities' income in England and Wales between 1997 and 2008. From a cross-sectional perspective, examining trends in income concentration ratios, there is no evidence that the biggest charities account for a growing share of total charity income over the period of analysis. However, the longitudinal perspective, which relates income growth over the period to initial size, shows that initially large charities have significantly higher median relative growth rates than the initially small. Substantively, these results are relevant to government plans for the 'Big Society', which rest in part on the ability of smaller, community-based charities as well as the bigger voluntary bodies to thrive and grow. Methodologically, for studies which examine trends in the distribution of income, these results illustrate the additional insights that are provided by the longitudinal perspective which cannot be inferred from repeated cross-sectional information. © 2012 Royal Statistical Society.