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About the UN Handbook

ABOUT THE UN HANDBOOK PROJECT. The UN Nonprofit Handbook Project 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.
The lack of official information was a result of the way nonprofits were treated in the System of National Accounts (SNA), the set of international guidelines developed by the UN Statistics Division for compiling national economic statistics, which buried data on the sector inside other sectors and obscured 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 resolves this oversight by offering 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.

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.
  • 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 use 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.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | the Czech Republic | France |
Germany | Ghana | India | Israel | Italy | Japan | Kenya | Kyrgyzstan | Korea, Republic of | Mali | Mexico | Morocco | New Zealand | Nigeria | Norway | Peru | the Philippines | Portugal | Slovakia | South Africa | Sweden | Thailand | Uganda | the United States | Vietnam
For information about encouraging implementation in your country, please contact Project Manager Megan Haddock. Resources for implementers or potential implementers, and further information about the development and history of the UN Handbook, can be found on the Project Resources page.

Permanent link to this article: http://ccss.jhu.edu/research-projects/un-nonprofit-handbook/about-the-un-handbook