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Assessing the State of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector: What Indicators Should We Use?

Alan J. Abramson

Abstract: This research note identifies seven key dimensions of the nonprofit sector that nonprofit stakeholders want to monitor to assess the sector’s condition, including financial resources; human resources; the diversity of nonprofit boards, staff, and clients; the impact of the nonprofit sector; advocacy activity; ethical and legal behavior; and the existence of a supportive environment. The article then describes current measures of these dimensions, noting the shortcomings of many of these measures. Two government data sources, the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs) and the Current Population Survey (CPS), are highlighted that contain timely information about the nonprofit sector but which, to date, have been underutilized by sector stakeholders. Next, the article describes the picture of the nonprofit sector that emerges from the relevant measures before concluding with discussion of further work needed to improve measurement of the sector.
Keywords: nonprofit sector / behavior / diversity / Survey / stakeholders / note / article then describes / government data

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