Nonprofit organizations are well known for their contributions to their communities, helping those in need. Public perception of nonprofits often focuses on volunteers making a difference for others. Media coverage focuses on the extremes: the "feel good" human interest stories or the rare cases of abuse of the public trust. But, that is not the whole story of the nonprofit sector.
According to a study by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, more than 10 percent of the American workforce is employed by nonprofits; together, these nonprofits make up the nation’s third largest industry. The nonprofit workforce outnumbers the combined workforces of the utility, agriculture, and construction industries
If the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the seventh largest economy in the world according to GDP data compiled by the World Bank. In the United States, the nonprofit sector generates more than $800 billion annually, or about 5.6% of our nation’s GDP. According to a study by Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and culture industry alone generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year—$61.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $74.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences.
Some of the greatest social advances in the last hundred years were spearheaded by nonprofit groups. We gathered through the National American Woman Suffrage Association to secure women's right to vote in 1920. We gathered through Townsend Clubs in the 1930s to get Congress to pass the Social Security Act. And we gathered through numerous nonprofits to secure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Caring for returning soldiers, rebuilding cities, educating children, supporting the workforce, nursing the sick, supporting our elders, elevating the arts, mentoring our youth, protecting natural resources, and more: nonprofits are making a difference all around us.
Telling this story is essential to demonstrate the value of nonprofits to funders (individuals, foundations, and corporations), to our communities, and to our partners in the government and media. We invite you to learn more about these vital organizations and how they touch each one of us every day.
Connect with local resources and expertise Find