2020 Nonprofit Stats: A Few Things That Might Surprise You About the Nonprofit Sector

3 min read

We’ve been working on an exciting new project for the last few weeks here at Prosper Strategies (teaser alert) that has sent me deep into a rabbit hole of research and statistics on the nonprofit sector. This process has reaffirmed what I’ve long known to be true: the size, scope and impact of the nonprofit sector is simply amazing.

To celebrate that fact, I decided to round up some of the latest and greatest stats on the nonprofit sector. I hope that as you read these, you’ll feel as inspired and grateful to be part of this sector as I am.

2020 Nonprofit Stats: Key Facts and Figures

  • There are more than 10 million nonprofits and non-governmental organizations worldwide. (via nonprofitaction.org)
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  • There are approximately 1.3 million 501(c)3 organizations based in the United States. (via National Council of Nonprofits)
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  • Nonprofit organizations account for 5-10 percent of the United States’ economy and about 10 percent of U.S. employment. (via Stanford Social Innovation Review)
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  • The American nonprofit sector employs approximately 11.9 million people (one out of every 10 working Americans), making it the third largest employment industry in the country, behind only retail and manufacturing. (via Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society)
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  • Contrary to popular belief, most nonprofits are not supported primarily by donations. (via Independent Sector’s Civil Society for the 21st Century)
    • 48 percent of revenue for public charities comes from fees for programs, goods and services
    • 33 percent comes from government
    • 13 percent comes from philanthropic donations
    • 6 percent comes from investments and other sources
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  • In 2018 (the last year for which data is currently available), approximately 63 million Americans volunteered their time with nonprofits. (via nonprofitsource.com)
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  • The value of volunteer hours contributed to the nonprofit sector in 2016 is roughly $187.4 billion. (via The Urban Institute)
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  • In 2019, approximately 175 million people donated to charities in the United States (via Independent Sector’s Civil Society for the 21st Century)
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  • If nonprofits were a country, they would have the 5th largest economy in the world. (via John Hopkins University).

While data points like these get me fired up about the power and potential of the sector, and about how underrecognized that potential is by those outside of it, I don’t mean to give you the impression that I believe operating a nonprofit is all sunshine and unicorns. Far from it. 

In fact, I believe that running an effective nonprofit has never been more difficult. Growing demand, shrinking resources, fierce competition, broken trust, and a cycle of starvation are making it hard for many nonprofits to sustain themselves and holding most organizations back from doing all they could to advance their missions.

But here at Prosper, we know that the solutions to many of the greatest challenges of our time — from climate change to cancer —  lie in the nonprofit sector. We also know that we need an effective nonprofit sector now more than ever. 

The solutions to many of the greatest challenges of our time -- from climate change to cancer -- lie in the nonprofit sector. We also know that we need an effective nonprofit sector now more than ever. Click To Tweet

That’s why we’re releasing something pretty major this March that will help the nonprofit sector optimize its effectiveness and accelerate its impact, even in the face of all the odds stacked against it. Stay tuned … we can’t wait to share more.

For now, I’ll leave you with this: if you work in or with the nonprofit sector, whether as an employee, a board member, a volunteer, or a supporter, thank you. You are doing amazing things, even if it feels like your accomplishments often go unnoticed. I know your work is challenging and the problems your organization is working to solve might seem insurmountable. Keep your head up. The world needs more people like you.

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