April 15, 2007
The sheer scale and rapid growth of America’s nonprofit sector make it difficult to ignore. In most of history, private not-for-profit organizations weren’t a topic of much attention because they weren’t especially important compared with the markets from which people drew their sustenance and the governments that often extracted whatever they could from them. But with the growth of our national wealth, nonprofits have been expanding relentlessly. The Independent Sector, which is basically the industry group for nonprofits, reports that the combined annual expenditures of all the not-for-profit organizations required to file Form 990 with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had grown to nearly $1 trillion in 2004. (That’s about half what the federal government spends each year, not counting defense.) In 1977, nonprofits employed around 6 million Americans; by 2001, that was up to 12 million.
Look at this on funding, too. And don’t miss this piece on inadequate financial regulation of nonprofits from the Boston Globe. (“A Globe Spotlight Team investigation of hundreds of foundations nationwide found that oversight is virtually nonexistent, allowing excesses and abuses to go unchecked.”)