Humanities Indicators
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Not-for-Profit English Literacy Development Organizations and Their Revenues

English literacy development organizations serve an important intermediary function between the formal education system and society’s need for a literate citizenry. This category includes any organization whose primary purpose is to foster proficiency in oral and written English among young people and/or adults, and it includes remedial reading programs, reading promotion programs (such as Reading Is Fundamental), and programs offering English as a second language instruction to adults; as well as associations of adult literacy teachers and English teachers at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels. Drawing on tax records extending back to the 1980s, the following indicator tracks the number and revenues of larger not-for-profit English literacy 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, 569 not-for-profit English literacy development organizations had gross receipts of at least $50,000. Median revenues for organizations in this category were $177,813 (Indicator IV-9h).
  • From 1989 to 2004, the number of English literacy organizations more than tripled (rising from 160 to 563), while revenues more than quadrupled (from $85 million to $353 million). From 2004 to 2012, the number of literacy organizations changed little (rising from 563 to 598 before dipping to 569). The revenues of these organizations dipped slightly during the recession (from $352 million to $344 million) before rising again to well above the prerecession level ($418 million).
  • The median age (as measured by the number of years since an organization received federal tax-exempt status) of English literacy organizations in 2012 was 16 years—substantially younger than the median of 25 years for all not-for-profit humanities organization types considered together.
IV-9h: Numbers and Revenues of Not-for-Profit (NFP) English Literacy Development 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.”

** 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;, accessed 4/6/2015).

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