Humanities Indicators
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Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations and Their Revenues: Trends among the Major Organization Types
(Updated September 2015)

The number of private, not-for-profit entities contributing to the humanities in the United States has increased substantially since 1989, although growth among some types of institution has outpaced others. Similarly, the resources available to not-for-profit humanities institutions vary widely by institutional type and subject area. The various categories of institution examined here also differ in their rates of growth, particularly during and in the wake of the “Great Recession.” While the number and combined revenues of some types of organization increased during the recession, other organization types saw a reversal of a nearly two-decades-long upward trend. 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).

Findings and Trends

  • Although they represented only 23% of not-for-profit humanities organizations in 2012, museums had close to half of all revenues (Indicator IV-9c).[1] The inverse was true of history organizations, which accounted for 32% of all humanities organizations but garnered only 17% of all revenues. (These data do not include the substantial number of museums and history institutions that are operated by the government or by colleges and universities.)[2]
  • Like history organizations, cultural and ethnic awareness organizations had a revenue share (5%) that was considerably smaller than their share (13%) of the total number of humanities not-for-profits.
  • The number of history organizations peaked in 2004, with small declines in 2009 and 2012, while the number of museums, as well as cultural and ethnic organizations, increased continually over the same time span (Indicator IV-a9). The numbers of organizations in other categories were relatively unchanged from 2004 to 2012.
  • From 1989 to 2012, museums had revenues that dwarfed those of other types of humanities organizations (due primarily to a relatively small number of exceptionally large institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Indicator IV-b9). Museums also experienced the largest proportional decline in revenue among humanities organizations during the recession (with a 24% drop in reported revenues among organizations in this category from 2004 to 2009). By 2012, museum organizations’ revenues had risen to 98% of their prerecession level.
IV-9c: Distribution of Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations and Their Revenues across Organizational Types, 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.” Shares may not add to 100%, due to rounding.

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-a9: Number of Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations, by Type, 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.”

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-b9: Revenues of Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations, by Organization Type, 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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Endnotes

[1] For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, the term museum organization encompasses art museums, history museums, ethnic heritage museums, multidisciplinary museums, the support organizations for such museums, and museum associations (see “What Is a ‘Humanities Organization’?”).
[2] For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, the term history organization includes historical societies, historical preservation groups, the support organizations for historical societies and historical preservation groups, professional societies and associations, and other organizations with a historical focus (see “What Is a ‘Humanities Organization’?”).