UN Nonprofit Handbook Project (UNHB)

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The UN Nonprofit Handbook Project (UNHB) seeks to improve the treatment of nonprofit, or civil society, organizations in national economic statistics. The ultimate goal of this work is to enhance both the understanding and credibility of this important sector and to provide a solid, empirical foundation for maximizing the contributions it can make to solving the pressing societal and environmental problems facing the world today.
A lack of official information on this sector is, in large part, is a result of the way nonprofits are treated in the System of National Accounts (SNA), the set of international guidelines developed by the UN Statistics Division that governments use for compiling national economic statistics. This system buries data on the nonprofit sector inside other sectors and obscures our view.
Developed by the Center in cooperation with an international team of statistical experts, and approved by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2002, the UN Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts offers countries a standard set of guidelines for highlighting the accounts of the nonprofit sector so that it can be seen and analyzed as a distinct sector in national economic accounts. The resulting “satellite accounts on non-profit institutions” pull together a much more comprehensive and reliable picture of the civil society sector, making it possible to gauge its contribution and track its evolution over time. As part of this process, statistical agencies are also called on to estimate the scale and value of the volunteer work these organizations mobilize and to include this in estimates of economic activity.
The State of Global Civil Society and Volunteering: Latest findings from the implementation of the UN Nonprofit Handbook (2013) presents the most recent data resulting from the implementation of the UN Handbook in 16 countries around the world. This report includes data on nonprofit employment, volunteering, fields of activity, contribution to GDP, expenditures, and revenues.
UN Handbook revision underway
The Center is preparing a revision of the UN NPI Handbook in cooperation with the United Nations Statistics Division and an international consultative group of national statistics agencies and civil society experts. The final document, which will be titled the Satellite Account for Nonprofit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work, is expected to be published in 2018.
The revision will draw on the experiences and lessons-learned from the nearly 25 countries to date that have implemented the Handbook, and will provide additional practical tools and guidance materials to make it more straightforward to implement and to produce comparative data. The revised document will not change the definition of a nonprofit institution; however additional guidance will be included that will permit the extension of the resulting satellite accounts to include a broader conception of the “third sector” that includes at least some of the emerging “social economy” and “social enterprise” entities, as well as some forms of direct volunteering, which have not been included in official statistical procedures up to now.
Four major developments triggered the need for this revision:

  1. The 2008 revision of the System of National Accounts (SNA), which introduced many improvements in the treatment of nonprofit institutions. In particular, the 2008 SNA calls for governments to sub-sector NPIs in the government and corporations accounts and emphasizes the importance of developing satellite accounts on the NPI sector. The revised UN NPI Handbook will thus provide guidance to countries in their efforts to sub-sector NPIs, and will offer more detailed guidance for identifying financial flows to them—including those from government, the market, and households in the form of donations and membership dues.
  2. The 2011 publication of the International Labour Organization’s Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work. The revised UN NPI Handbook will incorporate the guidelines published in the ILO Manual for the measurement of the volunteer contribution to the NPI sector, including the measurement of direct volunteering.
  3. The 2008 revision of the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, Rev.4 (ISIC Rev.4), which significantly expanded the number of fields in which NPIs tend to operate. The revised UN NPI Handbook will update the International Classification of Non-Profit Organizations (ICNPO), and will provide tools for classifying organizations in ISIC Rev.4 and for cross-walking ICNPO to ISIC Rev.4. The relationship between ICNPO and other systems, such as the European standard classification system of productive economic activities (NACE) and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), will also be discussed.
  4. The release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The revised UN NPI Handbook will provide guidance for countries that wish to go beyond the production of basic estimates on the NPI sector to also measure the output, outcomes, and impact of nonprofit organizations and related third sector organizations—specifically as they relate to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  5. Growing interest from statisticians, policy makers, social scientists, and private investors in “related” institutional units. Such units can take a variety of organizational forms—such as cooperatives, mutual societies, social enterprises, non-stock, and benefit corporations—as well as not formally organized activities. The revised UN NPI Handbook will draw on the substantial progress made in recent years in developing conceptual frameworks for identifying and reporting on the contribution of these entities, including that developed under the auspices of the European Commission-funded Third Sector Impact Project (TSI) that aimed to define the scope and gauge the impact of this broader “Third Sector.”

For more information, please contact us.
What will we learn?
Among the information that satellite accounts produce is data on:

  • The number of civil society organizations, by field.
  • The number of civil society workers, paid and volunteer.
  • The “value added” by civil society organizations, by field.
  • The value of volunteer contributions, by field.
  • Operating expenditures.
  • Sources of revenue, including philanthropy, fees, and government support, both domestic and cross-national.
  • The size and distribution of foundation grants.

The remaining challenge
Because implementation of this Handbook is optional, and because its greatest value can be derived through implementation in the largest possible number of countries, the UNSD authorized the Center to launch a global dissemination, technical assistance, and implementation campaign to ensure effective implementation and create a mechanism to assemble and report the results.
To date, 33 countries have committed to implementing the Handbook or some version of it. Many of these countries participated in the Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project as well; click the links below to see publications from these countries, including completed satellite accounts where available. Countries considering developing satellite accounts should visit our Project Resources page and contact the staff at our Center for support.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Chile | Czech Republic | Denmark | France | Germany | Ghana | India | Israel | Italy | Japan | Kenya | Kyrgyzstan | Korea, Republic of | Mexico | Mongolia | Morocco | Mozambique | New Zealand | Norway | Peru | Philippines | Portugal | Slovakia | South Africa | Sweden | Thailand | Uganda | United States | Vietnam