Nonprofit Economic Data Project Services

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The Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) works with clients across the country to develop reports documenting the important economic role of nonprofits in localities, states, and regions, or in specific industries such as the arts, social services, healthcare, and education. This research generally examines the following three measures of nonprofit impact.

Wages and employment

Employment is an extraordinarily useful and important indicator of the economic activity of nonprofit organizations since these organizations are known to be highly “labor-intensive.” What is more, the data source NED uses to examine this facet of nonprofit operations is both extensive and highly reliable. This data source is the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), or ES-202, data program operated by state Labor Market Information (LMI) offices in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Designed to collect official information for the nation’s Unemployment Insurance program, the QCEW data system also serves as an exciting new resource for understanding the scope and dynamics of nonprofit activity both locally and nationally. More specifically, this system:

  • Collects quarterly data on employment, wages and establishments for virtually all workplaces in this country, including nonprofit workplaces, and makes these data available far more quickly than almost any other source.
  • Covers not only nonprofit but also government and for-profit workplaces in the same data system, thus making it possible to compare employment and wages in these sectors over time and to analyze the changing patterns of nonprofit and for-profit competition.
  • Collects data at the level of individual facilities or “establishments” rather than organizations, which provides a more accurate picture of the distribution of employment across a region since many organizations operate multiple facilities located in different locales.
  • Is economical and highly reliable since the data are already being collected and verified by state governments and the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of the nation’s unemployment insurance system.

Despite its advantages, the QCEW data have historically not been available to yield information on the nonprofit sector. The reason for this is that LMI/BLS have lacked both the means and the incentive to separate out the nonprofit employers in their data. Working with state LMI officials, state nonprofit associations, and the BLS, the NED Project has developed a methodology for tapping into the QCEW data source and extracting data on nonprofit places of employment. The result has been to unlock a treasure trove of timely information on the scope, structure, and changing fortunes of the nonprofit sector in states and regions throughout the country.
Drawing on this data source, the Center has been able to document the size, composition, distribution, and growth of nonprofit employment. In the process it has demonstrated the significant economic scale of the sector at the national, state, and regional levels.

Nonprofit finances

By tapping into data from the IRS Form 990, which is required of all nonprofits with expenditures in excess of $25,000, the NED Project is able to measure the financial scope of nonprofit organizations nationally and in different states and regions. In particular, we can examine:

  • Key features of nonprofit finances, such as total revenue, total expenditures, composition of expenditures, assets, and liabilities.
  • The internal structure of the nonprofit sector, e.g., the share of resources represented by organizations of different sizes.
  • Major sources of revenue.

Moreover, by examining how these indicators vary by field and region, and how they have changed over time, we are able to develop a dynamic picture of nonprofit finances and identify important trends.


An important, yet often overlooked, nonprofit resource is the contribution of volunteers. By tapping into Census Bureau surveys of volunteer work, NED can estimate the economic contribution of volunteer workers to their local, state or region’s economy, and further detail the sector’s significant strength and human capital resources.

More information

If you are interested in collaborating with the Nonprofit Economic Data Project on a report focused on your region, state, or field, please contact Chelsea Newhouse.