2021 Nonprofit Stats: How Is the Sector Faring in This Strange Time?

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Back in January 2020, I wrote an article that rounded up data and stats on the size, scope and impact of the nonprofit sector that would become one of the most popular posts on our site. Since then, the sector and the world in general have been turned upside down.  Nonprofits have responded to the global pandemic, racial justice uprising and general sense of unrest and unease in our country in remarkable ways. To me, the sector has seemed more essential and more impactful than ever in recent months. But I wanted to see what the data show. So here you have it: an updated look on key facts and figures on the size and scope of the nonprofit sector.

Much of the data I originally looked at are not tracked annually and other new and different data points have been revealed, making this a bit of an apples/oranges exercise. However, one thing is abundantly clear: the nonprofit sector has faced its share of challenges in the last ~20 months, but it has risen to them well, and continues to be an amazing force for good in our country during this time of great need.

2021 Nonprofit Stats: Key Facts and Figures

  • There are more than 10 million nonprofits and non-governmental organizations worldwide. (source: The Global Journal)
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  • There are approximately 1.5 million 501(c)3 organizations based in the United States. (source: Candid / National Center for Nonprofits)
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  • If nonprofits were a country, they would have the 5th largest economy in the world. (via Johns Hopkins University).
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  • The nonprofit sector retained its position as the third-largest employment sector in the U.S. in 2020 and employs approximately 12.5 million Americans. That’s 1 in every 10 working Americans. (Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report)
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  • Despite the impact of the nonprofit sector as an employment industry, it’s estimated that the sector lost 1.6 million jobs in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic between March and May 2020. (Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report).
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  • In 2020, charitable giving in the United States grew by 2% compared to 2019, totaling $40.7 billion. (source: Blackbaud Institute Charitable Index)
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  • In 2020, online giving grew by 20.7% compared to 2019 and represented 13% of all charitable giving. This was the first year that online giving eclipsed 10% of all charitable giving. (source: Blackbaud Institute Charitable Index)
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  • In 2020, the average gift amount to nonprofits increased to $737, up from $617 in 2019. (source: Blackbaud Institute Charitable Index)
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  • 66% of volunteers decreased the amount of time spent volunteering or stopped volunteering altogether during the pandemic. However, estimates show volunteering may be back on the rise in 2021, though uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 makes predictions difficult. (source: Fidelity Charitable)
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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 2020, 51% of nonprofits said that their fundraising and development, as well as volunteer services programs, have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. (source: Fidelity Charitable)
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  • In 2020, 55% of nonprofits said that their delivery of programs and services has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. (source: Fidelity Charitable)

Do these data points sync up with what you’re seeing in your work in the nonprofit sector? I’d love to know how you’re faring in this strange time. Where are you succeeding? Where are you struggling? What’s keeping you up at night?

I’ll close this post as I did last time, with a word of gratitude. No data or stats could ever express the importance of the work you do day in and day out at your organizations to solve the world’s biggest problems. We need you more now than ever. Keep fighting the good fight.

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