2018 Nonprofit Sector in Brief

This brief discusses trends in the number and finances of 501(c)(3) public charities and key findings on two important resources for the nonprofit sector: private charitable contributions and volunteering.


Approximately 1.56 million nonprofits were registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2015, an increase of 10.4 percent from 2005.

The nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $985.4 billion to the US economy in 2015, composing 5.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Of the nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS, 501(c)(3) public charities accounted for just over three-quarters of revenue and expenses for the nonprofit sector as a whole ($1.98 trillion and $1.84 trillion, respectively) and just under two-thirds of the nonprofit sector's total assets ($3.67 trillion).

In 2017, total private giving from individuals, foundations, and businesses totaled $410.02 billion (Giving USA Foundation 2018), an increase of 3 percent from 2016 (after adjusting for inflation). According to Giving USA (2018) total charitable giving rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, making 2017 the largest single year for private charitable giving, even after adjusting for inflation.

An estimated 25.1 percent of US adults volunteered in 2017, contributing an estimated 8.8 billion hours. This is a 1.6 percent increase from 2016. The value of these hours is approximately $195.0 billion.

More Resources

Regulation of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Project

A project advancing research and practice on nonprofit regulatory frameworks and their impact on the sector


National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) Codes

IRS Activity Codes Used to Categorize Nonprofits


Nonprofit Trends and Impacts

A nationally representative survey of nonprofits