Nonprofit Works

Go straight to Nonprofit Works: An Interactive Database on the U.S. Nonprofit Economy


America’s nonprofit sector employs the third largest workforce and generating the third largest payroll of any of the 18 industries into which statistical authorities divide the American economy. As of 2017, nonprofits employed 12.5 million FTE workers—more than all branches of manufacturing combined, and behind only retail trade and accommodation and food services. What is more, it is adding employment at a rate that exceeds that of the country’s business sector. Yet, due to the way national economic data are kept, these facts are unknown to most policymakers—as well as to most leaders in the nonprofit sector itself.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies’ Nonprofit Economic Data project (NED) has found a way to draw on a previously untapped source of data generated through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). For 15 years, NED has been producing cutting-edge reports on the size, composition, distribution, and growth of nonprofit employment in regions and states across the country and the U.S. as a whole drawing on this unparalleled—but previously untapped—source of data on nonprofit employment. To accomplish this, the Center pioneered a procedure for identifying nonprofit institutions (NPIs) in the BLS database and secured BLS cooperation to extract the resulting data on NPIs in aggregated form from the hundreds of records in the QCEW dataset. These reports have been instrumental in demonstrating the nonprofit sector’s important role as a powerful economic engine and identifying key nonprofit trends such as the striking pattern of nonprofit employment growth and the suburbanization of nonprofit operations. States and localities have used our data to advocate for the sector and to educate policymakers and the public about the sector’s vital role not only as a program and service provider, but also as a major employer and growing industry.


What is Nonprofit Works?

To ensure these data can be more readily available to a much broader array of users, the Center has created Nonprofit Works. With this site, users can now not only access these U.S. nonprofit employment, establishment, and wage data on the national, state, county, and industry levels, but can also place those data into context by comparing nonprofits to their counterparts in other sectors, compare nonprofits to the five largest for-profit industries, and assess the demand for the services provided by the nonprofit sector by looking at corresponding population and income data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources.

We believe that making these data available can have a powerful transformative impact on how nonprofits are perceived, and therefore on the support they can garner for their important work. In particular, we believe that access to these data will:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Allow organizations serving the sector to keep data on the sector up-to-date.


Data are currently available at the state and county level for the years 1990-2017. National data are available beginning in 2007.


Nonprofit Works was made possible by the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation