2019 Nonprofit Employment Statistics

The nonprofit sector employs 24.0 million people, about 14% of the U.S. workforce, with hospitals and universities employing the most people
People waiting for an interview

The nonprofit sector employs 24.0 million people, about 14% of the U.S. workforce. While hospitals and universities are dominant employers, medium-sized nonprofits still employ 43.1% of personnel. Almost half of nonprofits (mostly foundations) employ nobody at all, and small nonprofits with fewer than 10 employees — while large in number — only employ 1.9% of personnel. It's important to note, however, that the size of the nonprofit is separate from the impact on individuals and society.

Nonprofits employ at least 24.0 million people, or ~14% of the U.S. workforce

Nonprofits in the United States employ more than 23,952,951 people — easily the biggest nonprofit employment statistic. These positions are a combination of full-time and part-time employees — the number of employees reported on organizations' Form W-3 (Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements) — and does not include contractors and indirect employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 155.8 million full and part time workers in 2018, so the nonprofit sector directly employs ~14% of the U.S. workforce.

Nonprofit employment is flat overall, but wages and benefits are going up ~4%

Looking at organizations for which Cause IQ has 2018-2019 nonprofit employment data, nonprofits overall are not hiring additional employees — the median growth in number of employees is 0.0%. However, total wages and benefits for these organizations is up 3.0%. So while nonprofits overall aren't hiring, they are paying their employees a bit more year-over-year.

85.9% of nonprofits have no employees

Not all nonprofits employ people, whether part time or full time. Almost half of nonprofits have nobody on staff and a payroll of less than $20,000. Most of these are foundations, such as private / family foundations that are completely run by trustees, or are civic and social organizations, such as amateur sports clubs or small community service organizations run by volunteers.

Hospitals and universities employ half of nonprofit personnel

There are 23,295 hospitals (inpatient and outpatient) and private colleges / universities in the United States. They are 1.2% of all nonprofits. However, these 23,295 hospitals and universities employ 12.9 million people, which is 53.8% of all people employed in the nonprofit sector. So hospitals and universities have an outsized influence on sector employment. While this is infrequently acknowledged among nonprofit employment statistics, it is important to know

Small nonprofits employ 1.9% of personnel

There are 105,808 small nonprofits that employ 10 or fewer people. Combined, these nonprofits employ 453,119 people, which is just 1.9% of the 24.0 million people employed by all nonprofits. While these small nonprofits represent 5.2% of all nonprofits, they are a plurality — 37.1% — of nonprofits that actually employ people. As noted above, the size of the nonprofit is separate from the impact on individuals and society, and many small organizations have a large impact (and vice versa).

Non-hospital, non-university, non-small nonprofits employ 43.1% of personnel

There are 91,691 nonprofits that employ more than 10 people and are not hospitals or universities. While only 4.5% of all nonprofits, they employ 91,691 people, which is 43.1% of nonprofit employment. These nonprofits mostly have staff sizes between 18 and 80 people, and include human service organizations, trade and professional associations, and labor unions, among many other types of nonprofits.

Wages vary widely depending on the type of nonprofit

Nonprofit personnel typically earn between $16,925 and $94,324 per year in wages, benefits, and other compensation. The nonprofits that on average pay the most are science and technology research centers ($94,324), medical research organizations ($80,831), and international and foreign affairs organizations ($89,923). These are specialized organizations that tend to employ highly educated personnel. On the opposite end we see organizations with more part-time workers and a less skilled work force. These include recreation, sports, and social clubs ($16,925), youth development organizations ($20,204), and human services organizations ($23,492). Please note that these nonprofit employment statistics includes both part-time and full-time workers, and different types of nonprofits employ more part-time workers than others. Nonetheless, the trends are still interesting.


Cause IQ digitizes and cleans electronic and paper / scanned Form 990s for over 400,000 IRS-registered tax-exempt organizations. For this article, we define "nonprofit" as any tax-exempt organization registered with the IRS. This includes 501(c)(3), 501(c)(6), 501(c)(8), and all other types of nonprofits. Note that churches are not required to submit Form 990s to the IRS, therefor they are not represented in this article.

To determine number of employees, we used the number of employees question on the Form 990, which is the number of employees reported on organizations' Form W-3 (Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements). We have previous compared Form 990 employment numbers to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers for the nonprofit sector, and have found them largely similar.

Article originally published on January 10, 2020.

Curious how Cause IQ can help you?

Over 400 customers use the Cause IQ website to help serve their nonprofits clients and find foundation funding. Additional filters, personnel information, peer benchmarking, Salesforce integration, vendor lists, etc. Access all the information your company needs in one place, already collected.
Create a free account
Over 400 customers use Cause IQ to grow, maintain, and serve their nonprofit clients.