Nonprofit sector big and growing

Nonprofit sector
Nonprofit sector

The nonprofit sector is big, getting bigger, and dominated by big organizations and the health and education fields, and it has been whipsawed by big swings in charitable giving over the past decade, a new report says.

The U.S. was home to over 1.4 million nonprofits in 2010, up 19 percent from 1999, a total that included over 1 million public charities, says the Nonprofit Sector in Brief, a highlight of trends from The Nonprofit Almanac 2011, which was prepared by the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.

Those public charities accounted for three-fourths of total revenue of all nonprofits and three-fifths of their assets.

The number of public charities registered with the IRS grew 59 percent over the decade, while the number of “reporting” public charities that collected over $25,000 in gross receipts and filed a financial return with the IRS grew 47 percent.


Public charities in 2009 reported $1.4 trillion in revenue, $1.4 trillion in expenses and $2.53 trillion in assets, with the revenue of reporting public charities growing 36 percent over the decade, their expenses growing 49 percent, and their assets growing 33 percent, all after adjusting for inflation.

Roughly three-fourths of charities reported less than $500,000 in annual expenses yet accounted for only 2 percent of all spending by reporting public charities, while nonprofits reporting annual expenses of $10 million or more accounted for less than 4 percent of charities but 85 percent of spending.

Fees from the sale of goods and services accounted for 76 percent of revenue of public charities in 2009, with private sources accounting for 52 percent of fees, and government accounting for 23 percent.

Including fees and grants, government accounted for 32 percent of revenue for reporting public charities, while contributions accounted for 14 percent, up from 12 percent in 2008, and investment income plunged in 2009 from stock market losses of $3 billion for the sector.

Health nonprofits accounted for 60 percent of revenues and 41 percent of assets for reporting public charities, with hospitals and primary-care facilities accounting for 51 percent of total revenue among health nonprofits and 22 percent of assets.

Education nonprofits accounted for 16 percent of revenue of reporting public charities but 29 percent of assets, including both physical plant and in many cases endowment assets, and institutions of higher education alone accounting for 10 percent of all revenue and 19 percent of all assets in the sector.

Hospitals and higher education combined accounted for over two-third of nonprofit assets.


Private charitable contributions totaled $290.89 billion in 2010, up 2 percent from the revised estimate for 2009 and the same total as in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

Based on inflation-adjusted dollars giving grew between 2003 and 2005, fell in 2008 and 2009 during the recession, and in 2010 regained its 2000 levels.

Congregations and other religious groups received a third of all private charitable contributions in 2010, or two-and-a-half times the share of any other type of recipient, with education received 13 percent, the second-biggest share.


Foundation giving totaled $45.78 billion in 2010, down 2 percent from 2009, with foundations assets totaling $622 billion in 2010, up 6 percent from $587 billion in 1999, after adjusting for inflation, according to the Foundation Center.

The U.S. was home to over 76,500 grant-making foundations in 2009, up 52 percent from 1999.


In 2010, 26 percent of adults volunteered, or 62.8 million individuals, a percentage that has stayed virtually flat for the past five years and was down from 2005, when 29 percent of adults volunteered.

Nearly 17,000 adults, or 7 percent of the adult population, volunteered on an average day in 2010, down slightly from 2009, with the average volunteer contributing 2.46 hours on average in 2010, up from 2.4 hours in 2009.

Combined, adults volunteered nearly 15 billion hours in 2010.

Volunteers contributed hours that were the equivalent of time worked by 8.8 million full-time employees, with total volunteer time worth nearly $283.85 billion in 2010, based on average private wages.

The largest use of volunteers, or 24 percent of volunteer time, was for social service and care, up from 22 percent in 2009, trailed by administration and support, which accounted for 22 percent of volunteer time, down from 26 percent in 2009.

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