Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations
 
Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations and Their Revenues: Overview
(Updated September 2015)

In addition to foundations, many other private, not-for-profit entities contribute to the humanities in the United States. Using funding from governmental or private sources (often both) either to engage in or to promote humanistic endeavors, these organizations are extremely diverse in both their focus and size, ranging from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to historical societies to the many small “friends of” associations that raise funds and provide volunteer labor for libraries and museums. Drawing on tax records extending back to the 1980s, the following indicators track the number and revenues of larger not-for-profit humanities organizations; that is, those with gross receipts of $50,000 or more (and thus required to submit the federal tax forms that are the source of the data underlying these indicators).[1]

Findings and Trends

  • In 2012, 11,216 humanities not-for-profits met the criterion for inclusion in this study, with combined revenues of over $12.5 billion (Indicator IV-9a). Humanities organizations represented approximately 4% of all public charities of comparable size and 0.08% of such charities’ revenues.[2]
  • From 1989 to 2004, both the number of larger not-for-profit humanities organizations and their total revenues grew substantially. Over this period the number of such humanities organizations increased by 132%, while their reported revenues grew approximately 81%. However, over the next eight years (which include the Great Recession years of 2007 to 2009), the two trends diverged. While the number of organizations remained fairly constant, their revenues first declined by approximately 10% during the recession and then rebounded to just above their prerecession level.
  • In 2012, the median age of humanities organizations (as measured by the number of years since an organization received tax-exempt status) was 25 years.
  • A typical not-for-profit humanities organization in 2012 was smaller, as measured by revenues, than its 1989 counterpart (Indicator IV-9b). In 1989, these organizations reported median revenues of $249,000 dollars (adjusting for inflation). By 2012 the median had dropped to $165,000.
  • The range in the amount of revenue reported by individual humanities organizations was considerable. The gap between the 25th and 75th percentiles was narrowest in 2009, with $432,000 as the top quartile and $76,000 as the bottom quartile in inflation-adjusted dollars. The gap widened in 2012, to $470,000 at the top and $81,000 at the bottom of the interquartile range.[3]
  • In each of the years for which data are presented here, the vast majority of not-for-profit humanities organizations—90%—reported revenues that were hundreds of millions of dollars lower than the maximum.
IV-9a: Numbers and Inflation-Adjusted Revenues of Not-for-Profit (NFP) Humanities Organizations, 1989–2012*

* Organizations whose gross receipts were $50,000 or more. Years are “circa” years, a concept developed by the collector of these data to compensate for the often substantial lag between the end of organizations’ fiscal year and their filing of IRS Form 990, the annual financial report required of all public charities—and the source of the data presented in this indicator. For more on circa years and the rationale for excluding organizations with gross receipts of less than $50,000, see “About the Data.”
** Number of years since recognized as “nonprofit” by the federal government.

Source: Original analysis by the Humanities Indicators of data culled from the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 Return Transaction Files by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics. Revenues were adjusted for inflation using the Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (annual deflators, vintage 3/27/2015; http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDPDEF/downloaddata, accessed 4/6/2015).

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IV-9b: Range in Revenues of Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations, 1989–2012* (Adjusted for Inflation)

* Organizations whose gross receipts were $50,000 or more. Years are “circa” years, a concept developed by the collector of these data to compensate for the often substantial lag between the end of organizations’ fiscal year and their filing of IRS Form 990, the annual financial report required of all public charities—and the source of the data presented in this indicator. For more on circa years and the rationale for excluding organizations with gross receipts of less than $50,000, see “About the Data.”

Source: Original analysis by the Humanities Indicators of data culled from the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 Return Transaction Files by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics. Revenues were adjusted for inflation using the Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (annual deflators, vintage 3/27/2015; http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDPDEF/downloaddata, accessed 4/6/2015).

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../cmsData/xls/IV-9b.xls../cmsData/ppt/IV-9b.ppt../cmsData/pdf/IV-9b.pdf

Endnotes

[1] Gross receipts can be thought of as the money an organization earned plus the money it took to earn it. In other words, gross receipts equal revenue plus expenses. This is how some organizations included in the analysis could have reported negative revenues (as is revealed by the minimum revenue values noted on the graph for Indicator IV-9b, above).
[2] These calculations are based on data drawn from the Urban Institute, “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014: Public Charities, Giving, and Volunteering” (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2014), 3 table 1.
[3] The range of “typical” or “usual” values exhibited by a population of persons or objects is described through the use of a statistic referred to as the interquartile range, which ignores the most extreme values of a sample distribution. Quartiles are statistics that divide the observations of a numeric sample into several groups, each of which contains 25% of the data. The lower, middle, and upper quartiles are computed by ordering the values for a particular variable (in this case organizational revenues) from smallest to largest and then finding the values below which fall 25%, 50%, and 75% of the data. The lower quartile and the upper quartile are the two values that define the interquartile range. The middle quartile is also known as the median.