Humanities Indicators
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Not-for-Profit Humanities Museum Organizations and Their Revenues

Museum organizations had the largest pool of revenues among the several types of humanities not-for-profits profiled by the Humanities Indicators (HI). For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, the term museum organization encompasses art museums, history museums, ethnic heritage museums, multidisciplinary museums, support organizations for humanities-oriented museums, and humanities museum associations. Drawing on tax records extending back to the 1980s, the following indicator tracks the number and revenues of larger not-for-profit humanities museum organizations; that is, those with gross receipts of $50,000 or more (and thus required to submit the federal tax forms that are source of the data underlying this indicator).

Findings and Trends

  • In 2012, 2,579 not-for-profit humanities museum organizations had gross receipts of at least $50,000. Median revenues for organizations in this category were $239,323 (Indicator IV-9d).
  • The number of humanities museum organizations doubled from 1989 to 2004 before flattening out at approximately 2,500 organizations from 2004 to 2012.
  • Revenues for museum organizations increased substantially from 1994 to 1999, plateaued at approximately $5.8 billion in 1999 and 2004, and then dropped 24% by 2009 (to $4.4 billion). By 2012 revenues had returned to near prerecession levels ($5.7 billion).
  • The median age for museum organizations (as measured by the number of years since an organization obtained federal tax-exempt status) was 25 years in 2012—consistent with the median for all not-for-profit humanities organization types considered together.
IV-9d: Numbers and Revenues of Not-for-Profit (NFP) Humanities Museum 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.” 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;, accessed 4/6/2015).

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