Key Data Concepts

501(c)(3)s and Other 501 Organizations

Before working in depth with NCCS nonprofit sector data, it's helpful to understand the different types of nonprofit organizations:

  • 501(c)(3) public charities include most nonprofit organizations involved in the arts, education, health care, human services, and community service, as well as many others.  More than 200,000 organizations filed in recent years.  More detail
  • 501(c)(3) private foundations primarily include organizations organizations that make grants to other nonprofits, like the Pew Charitable Trust and the Ford Foundation. More than 50,000 foundations filed in recent years.  More detail
  • Other exempt organizations registered with the IRS include trade unions, business leagues, social and recreational clubs, and veterans associations classified under varying sections of the IRS code (e.g., 501(c)(4)). More than 120,000 organizations filed in recent years.  More detail

This graphic summarizes the different 501(c) organizations.

Filing vs. Registration

It is also helpful to understand the division between organizations that must file with the IRS annually and those that have merely completed their initial registration with the IRS.

  • Organizations that report gross receipts of more than $25,000 in a fiscal year are generally required to file a Form 990 with the IRS unless they are religious congregations, denominations, or controlled by a congregation or denomination. (See the IRS Form 990 instructions for details.) All private foundations, regardless of their level of gross receipts, are required to file annually.
  • Approximately two-thirds of the organizations that are registered with the IRS do NOT file a Form 990 with the IRS in any given year. Congregations and some other religious organizations as well as organizations with less than $25,000 in gross receipts are in this category.