Announcing Nonprofit Works: An Interactive Database on the U.S. Nonprofit Economy

By on January 25, 2017

Media contact: Chelsea Newhouse

The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies is proud to announce the launch of Nonprofit Works, a new interactive website providing access to critical data on nonprofit employment, establishments, and wages in the United States from 1990-2011. With this new resource, you will be able to answer crucial questions like:

  • How many people work for nonprofits in your state or county?
  • In what fields are those jobs concentrated?
  • How do nonprofit jobs compare to those in other sectors working in the same fields?
  • How much have nonprofits contributed to job growth?
  • How much do nonprofit wages contribute to the local economy?
  • Are nonprofits present where they are most needed in your community?

America’s nonprofit sector employs the third largest workforce of any of the 18 industries into which statistical authorities divide the American economy, behind only retail trade and manufacturing, but ahead of construction, transportation, and finance and insurance. What is more, it is adding employment at a rate that exceeds that of the country’s for-profit business sector.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. But, due to the way economic data are collected and reported in our country, these striking facts about the enormous economic contribution of nonprofit organizations in communities across the country have long been invisible. And, since “out of sight is out of mind,” this has led to widespread neglect of this important set of community institutions on the part of policymakers, the media, and the public at large, and it has produced widespread defensiveness on the part of the sector itself.
Now that is about to change—and none too soon. With major cuts likely facing nonprofits in crucial human service fields at both state and national levels and growing threats to nonprofit advocacy gains as well, nonprofits need all the help they can get to make their case.

NONPROFIT WORKS—A New Tool to Empower Local Nonprofit Communities
Nonprofit Works, a new interactive database created by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, is designed to help with this task.
Building on more than a decade of experience producing detailed reports on the nonprofit workforce in states and communities across the country by drawing on previously unpublished data assembled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and state employment data offices throughout the United States through their ambitious Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the Hopkins Center is now bringing these valuable data to fingertips of every nonprofit, foundation, state nonprofit association, regional association of grantmakers, and policymaker concerned about economic trends in a crucial “industry” in their regions. The result is a new arsenal with which to equip nonprofit organizations in communities across the country to tell their story far more persuasively than ever.

    “We have relied on the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies’ data to help demonstrate the enormous economic impact of the nonprofit sector for over 10 years,” says Heather Iliff, President and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits. “This new tool will now put these powerful resources directly in the hands of the public, and we are thrilled to have access to such a useful database about nonprofits in our state and beyond in such a user-friendly format.”

What is more, the QCEW database on which Nonprofit Works draws is an unusually rich and reliable database on the nonprofit sector:

  • It has been in existence for more than 50 years;
  • It is a census rather than a sample survey;
  • It covers at least 97% of nonprofit employment in addition to its coverage of all for-profit employment in the same database, making it possible to compare wages and employment in particular fields and areas;
  • It is establishment-based rather than organization-based, and is geo-coded to the county level—which means it reports exactly where the employment is located. This sets it apart from databases such as those based on 990 forms which attribute all activity to the headquarters of an organization even its facilities are scattered; this granularity allows a more accurate identification of how nonprofits contribute not only to quality of life, but also to state and local economies throughout the country;
  • It permits comparisons over time; and
  • It is far more timely than other available databases.


The historic problem with the QCEW for nonprofits, however, is that while this source covers nonprofits, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had no way to identify the nonprofits in its database and therefore did not report on them. The Center for Civil Society Studies team found a way to overcome this problem and thereby opened a treasure trove of new and important data on nonprofit employment and wages broken down by fields, states, and counties across the country. Armed with these data, nonprofit organizations and those who advocate on their behalf will be able to:

  • Increase the visibility and credibility of the nonprofit sector in the eyes of policymakers, the business community, the media, and the general public;
  • Make clear the substantial economic impact nonprofit organizations contribute as employers and wage payers, and therefore as contributors to the sales and income tax revenues generated by their workers;
  • Underline the dynamic nature of this sector and its contribution to employment growth;
  • Help identify problems and challenges that nonprofit organizations are facing and thus alert sector leaders and policymakers to them;
  • Give policymakers a better basis for policy decisions affecting this set of organizations;
  • Give the media a better handle with which to write about this sector as a part of a region’s economy; and
  • Give nonprofit leaders greater confidence in advocating for the sector in view of the economic contribution it makes to states, counties, and communities


How Does Nonprofit Works Operate?
Nonprofit Works was developed with the user in mind. Nonprofit Works allows you to decide what geographic area(s), field(s), and year(s) to examine, and how you would like to output the data you retrieve. The easy-to-use 7-step Data Selection Wizard walks you through your choices step-by-step, and assists you in choosing appropriate variables as you proceed through your selections.
Much of the benefit of Nonprofit Works will be available to users for free with a Nonprofit Works Basic user account. For users wanting to explore a more robust body of comparative and contextual data, we offer the Nonprofit Works Premium user account for a small fee. For organizations that would like to provide access to Nonprofit Works Premium for their members or constituents, we also offer the option of customized fee structures adapted to their needs and budget.

Nonprofit Works Basic (free access)
By creating a free Nonprofit Works Basic user account, you will gain access to the most timely data available on the nonprofit sector in the United States on the national, state, and county levels, broken down by industry. The database currently covers the years 1990-2011; efforts are underway to extend that to 2015 and then 2017, and at least every five years thereafter.
Data. A Nonprofit Works Basic user account includes access to data on:

  • Nonprofit paid employment by state, county, and industry.
  • Nonprofit establishments by state, county, and industry.
  • Total annual wages paid by nonprofits, by state, county, and industry.


Comparisons. A Nonprofit Works Basic user account allows you to compare across up to five selections in any two of the following dimensions:

  • Geographical regions down to the county level.
  • Industries (e.g., social services, arts and recreation, nursing homes).
  • Years, either consecutive or individually chosen.


Visualizations. You will be able to choose a visualization for your data from the following options:

  • Customizable bar charts
  • Customizable trend charts
  • Pie charts
  • Tables


Downloads. With your Nonprofit Works Basic user account, you can download your visualization as:

  • Image file (.png)


Preferences. With a Nonprofit Works Basic user account, you can save several options for quick access, including:

  • Primary geographical preference
  • Primary industry/field of activity
  • Primary visualization preference

Nonprofit Works Premium (paid access)
Nonprofit Works Premium is designed for those who would like to see the nonprofit data offered in context with other sectors of the economy and the demographic characteristics of the region. By creating a Nonprofit Works Premium user account, you will have access to more data, more download options, and more user features, including:
More Data. Nonprofit Works Premium users have access to crucial comparative and contextual data, including:

  • Average weekly wages paid by nonprofits.
  • For-profit and government employment, establishments, and wages compared to nonprofits in the same regions and/or fields.
  • Nonprofit share of private (nonprofit + for-profit) or total (nonprofit + for-profit + government) employment, establishments, or wages.
  • Demographic features of geographic areas served by nonprofits—including total population, population by age group, per capita median income, and public assistance share of median income— which can provide a window into the needs for nonprofit services in these regions.


More Download Options. Nonprofit Works Premium users have access to all of the visualization and download options available to free users, as well as PDF files and machine-readable CSV files.
Saved Searches. In addition to saving basic selection preferences, Nonprofit Works Premium users also have the exclusive ability to save multiple full searches and visualizations for quick future access and revision.

Nonprofit Works Premium Membership Options
Nonprofit Works Premium offers two types of memberships—single-user and multi-user.
Single-user membership options
You can sign up right on the site for a Nonprofit Works Premium single-user account and get started exploring the data today. Nonprofit Works Premium single-user account options are:

  • 24 hours ($10)
  • 30 days ($100)
  • 1 year ($500)


Nonprofit Works Premium multi-user accounts
Nonprofit Works also offers an option for organizations or others wishing to purchase full Nonprofit Works Premium Account access for their own organization or membership discounts for their members, constituents, partners, colleagues, or customers. The Center for Civil Society Studies’ team will be happy to work with you to customize these memberships to fit your needs and budget. Please contact us with any questions or to get started!

Click here for a tutorial on the Nonprofit Works Data Selection Wizard.
Click here to get started exploring Nonprofit Works today.
Click here to download the Nonprofit Works flyer.



About the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies | email
The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies is a leading source of ground-breaking research and knowledge about the nonprofit sector, social investing, and the tools of government. Working in collaboration with governments, international organizations, investment innovators, and colleagues around the world, the Center encourages the use of this knowledge to strengthen and mobilize the capabilities and resources of the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors to address the complex problems that face the world today. The Center conducts research and educational programs that seek to improve current understanding, analyze emerging trends, and promote promising innovations in the ways that government, civil society, and business can collaborate to address social and environmental challenges.
About the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) | link
Nonprofit organizations are facing increased pressures in states and localities throughout the United States, but the nonprofit sector’s ability to respond to these pressures has been limited by a lack of timely information about how prevailing economic realities are affecting the sector. The Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) is helping to tackle this problem by charting economic trends in the nonprofit sector including how employment, wages, and finances have changed over time and in relation to other industries. Moreover, the project is able to analyze these data at the national, regional, state, and local levels, and to focus on particular subsectors—such as nursing homes, hospitals, home health centers, education, social services, and the arts. A collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, state employment security agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and state nonprofit associations, the NED Project has thus far produced over 40 state, county, and regional Nonprofit Economic Data Bulletins since its founding in 2001 is yielding a vital resource for understanding the nonprofit sector.


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