Most Common Nonprofit Types by State in 2020

The nonprofit sector varies regionally within the United States, with different parts of the country tending to have different types of nonprofits
Map with pins in it, by Kelsey Knight / Unsplash

The nonprofit sector varies regionally within the United States, with different parts of the country tending to have different types of nonprofits. Potentially driven by economic, geographic, and social factors, these regional (state state) variations show the diversity and importance of the nonprofit sector within the United States. For example, charities in the West and New England have far more environmental organizations than the Great Plains or the South. Similarly, the DC-metro has an abundance of business-related nonprofits, internationally focused NGOs, and civil rights organizations. Check out the interactive visualization below to explore yourself or read about our additional conclusions below that.

Most common nonprofit types by state data visualization

Religious organizations and educational nonprofits dominate the United States. See which type of nonprofit is most common in each state with the visualization below.

Popularity of nonprofit types data visualization

See which types of nonprofits, as measured by top-level NTEE codes, are present in each state. Select the nonprofit type below, and the map and table will change to just show that nonprofit type. Select the dropdown in the top-right of the visualization to change the type of nonprofit (NTEE code).

Religious and educational nonprofits are by far the most common

When looking at the United States as a whole, religious organizations (including churches) and educational nonprofits (colleges, universities, paracohial schools, etc.) are the most common. Combined, they account for 30% (515,312) of the active nonprofits (1,694,584) in the United States.

Environmental organizations are more popular in the West and Northeast

Looking at the NTEE C: Environmental organizations, we see that the West and Northeast dominate, with proportionately more environmental nonprofits. These states are also generally the states with more federal lands, and more of their economies tied to these lands, potentially driving the greater number of environmental organizations.

New England has a much high percentage of mental health organizations

In most states, mental health organizations (NTEE F) are between 0.8% and 1.8% of nonprofits. For some reason, though, New England -- and only New England -- mental health organizations represent between 2.2% and 4.3% of nonprofits in those states. This could be related to state or federal funding, local priorities, or other reasons, but this trend was stronger than any other health-related trend.

The DC metro area most think tanks, NGOs, research organizations, civil rights, and business associations

While not visually apparent on the map, by looking at the table in the visualization you can see that the District of Columbia has a disproportionate number of civil rights (NTEE R), international NGOs (NTEE Q), research (NTEEs U and V), and business associations (NTEE S). Most national headquarters organizations are in DC, and the proximity to the federal government makes it advantageous for certain types of organizations to locate there.

Business-friendly states (and Rhode Island) are home foundations

Nevada and Delaware, popularly known to have easy corporate registration, have a disproportionate number of foundations (NTEE T), especially private foundations. Strangely, Rhode Island proportionally has the most foundations by far, even more than Nevada and Delaware. Why so many foundations in Rhode Island? We don't know. While it's not known to be business-friendly like Nevada and Delaware, perhaps the tax-exempt / nonprofit regulations in the state are good towards foundations.

Religious organizations dominate the South and lower Midwest

Churches and other religiously-affiliated organizations (NTEE X) are heavily represented in the South and lower Midwest compared to other states. In South Carolina and Georgia, almost 25% of all nonprofits are religious (compared to DC, Vermont, and Rhode Island, where only seven percent are religious). Interesting to note is how this compared to social clubs, sports, and recreation nonprofits (NTEE N), which almost exactly mirrors this geographic distribution. People appear to be involved in their communities across the country, it just depends on whether it is a church, sports team, volunteer organization, or social club.


Cause IQ digitizes and cleans electronic and paper / scanned Form 990s for over 1.6 million IRS-registered tax-exempt organizations. For this article, we analyzed any tax-exempt organization registered with the IRS, only excluding terminated / out-of-date organizations.

Article originally published on February 25, 2020.

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