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A little innocuous statistical espionage enables potential grant seekers to gauge the competition and to refine their strategic positioning for winning grants.


This post explores how many nonprofit organizations exist, in the United States of America, as potential rivals for funding — and their varied mixes of funding sources. Later posts will explore other aspects of US nonprofits’ revenue development strategies as well as their options for seeking grants.


Numbers of Nonprofit Organizations:

In An Overview of the Nonprofit and Charitable Sector (2009) the Congressional Research Service (CRS), citing data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, reported that out of 987,033 charitable organizations registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 99,263 (or 10.06%) were in arts, culture, and humanities; 149,411 (or 15.14%) were in education; 4,177 (or 0.42%) were in higher education; 45,882 (or 4.65%) were in environment; 72,410 (or 7.34%) were in health; and 261,984 (or 26.54%) were in human services. (All data are as of July 2009.)


Out of the same 987,033 registered charitable organizations, 512,889 (or 51.96%) were large enough to be required to file 990 returns with the IRS. Among these 512,889 organizations, 64,347 (or 12.55%) were in arts, culture, and humanities; 91,113 (or 17.76%) were in education; 2,378 (or 0.46%) were in higher education; 24,924 (or 4.86%) were in environment; 49,357 (or 9.62%) were in health; and 163,885 (or 31.95%) were in human services. (All data are as of July 2009.)


Sources of Revenues:

In its Overview of the Nonprofit and Charitable Sector (2009) the Congressional Research Service (CRS), reports that for charitable organizations, private payments for service are the largest category of revenue. Private payments for service may include a wide variety of services, such as payments for medical care and education tuition. In 2005 (the most recent year the CRS reported) charities collected $590 billion in payments for services, which constituted 49% of total revenue.


The second largest revenue source for charitable organizations is government grants and payments. In 2005, charities collected $351 billion worth of government grants and payments or 29% of total revenue.


In 2005, private contributions (donations) were $143.7 billion, or 12% of total revenue to charitable organizations. Private contributions to charities were their third largest revenue source.


Charitable organizations made $81 billion from investments in 2005, which represented 7% of their overall revenue. Investment income included the sales of securities, interest, and dividends. The recent Great Recession greatly reduced revenue flowing into charitable organizations from investment income.


Other revenue, of which there were $30 billion in 2005, makes up 3% of overall revenue received by charitable organizations. Such revenue comes from sources such as membership dues, net special events income, and other miscellaneous revenue-raising activities.


Later posts will explore nonprofits’ differentiated revenue sources as well as trends in the numbers of grant-making foundations from which they might seek funding.


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