UN Nonprofit Handbook Project (UNHB)

[ download the fact sheet ]

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
A revision of the UN NPI Handbook is currently underway. The revision will draw on the experiences and lessons-learned from the nearly 20 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 UN NPI Handbook will not change the definition of a non-profit institution, but rather will provide guidance and enhancements as a result of four major developments:

    • The revision of the System of National Accounts in 2008, which introduced many improvements in the treatment of nonprofit institutions.
    • The publication in 2011 of the International Labour Organization Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work.
    • The 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 release of draft UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets, the follow-on to the UN Millennium Development Goals.

For more detail on what this revision will entail, please see this post.

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