Nonprofit data at your fingertips

I’d like to give a shout out to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, a project of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, at the Urban Institute. I find that I probably visit the NCCS free Table Wizard at least once a month. (Of course, I’m always scrounging for data).

Maybe it’s just me, but I often overhear conversations among nonprofit executives, service providers, or board members who make statements like “I wish we knew how many nonprofits there were in our state” or “how does our organization measure up to the larger nonprofit landscape in terms of revenues.” I suggest that they check out NCCS.

There’s lots of great data already compiled on the site (like the number of registered 501(c)3 organizations by state). I urge you to look around. I know I’ve barely tapped what is there.

Last month, I was completing a development audit for a provider of adult education services and was interested in where they stood among their state colleagues. So I went to the NCCS Table Wizard and asked for Registered Nonprofits, Total Revenue Levels, the state (let’s try Indiana), Major Category Education and subcategory Adult Education in the NTEE code and then Public Charity.

This is what I got.

Now, the table wizards are only as specific as the data reported on the 990. So while I can get gross revenue breakdowns under the big categories of “Contributions, Gifts and Grants” or “Program Services and Contracts,” the 990s doesn’t tell us whether those contributions were from companies, individuals, private or foundations.  For the casual user, it’s a great start in helping you understand just where in the landscape of organizations you might be.

Besides data on nonprofits, you can look at household charitable giving in your state and get some numbers on average gifts and number of itemized returns who make charitable gifts.

Some of the ways I’ve used the tables include looking at the stratification  of the sector by revenues and assets, understanding in a gross way how a particular sector receives its income, or what household giving looks like on average in various states by income level.

I know that there are many more uses of the data for serious researchers. I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve used data from NCCS. Or please share other data sources that you rely on.

6 responses to Nonprofit data at your fingertips

  1. Sandy Rees

    I’ve heard that not all nonprofits who should be filing a 990 actually do. That may be something to consider in your interpretation of the data.


    • Gayle Gifford Post Author

      The IRS now requires all nonprofits, even the tiniest, to file something. A number of organizations are now on alert for revocation of their tax exemption for failure to file three years in a row. The list is on the IRS web site at But yes, not all data is there. I think what we’ll find after this go round with the IRS is that the number of functioning nonprofits decreases.

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