“Statistics” is not a dirty word – even for an English major like me!  Actually, the statistics compiled by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics constitute some of the best resources available as I work with local affiliate boards and my Foundation colleagues to identify opportunities and address challenges in communities across the state.

NCCS is “the national clearinghouse of data on the nonprofit sector in the United States,” and the numbers, maps and charts are a treasure trove of information for organizations like the NC Community Foundation, as it helps us track down information to inform our community grantmaking as well as assist donors who have an interest in a certain geographic or issue area.

Program officers and donors alike can draw some interesting conclusions about the North Carolina nonprofit sector from the Center’s facts and figures.

Every week, without fail, at least one person comments to me that there are “too many charities.”  NCCS reports that there are 29,175 public charities in North Carolina.  Since there are approximately 9.2 million people in the state, there are .003 charities per person. 

When folks ask me about the number of charities, they usually comment that charities are always asking for money.  So how much money do they really have?  Of the 29,175 NC organizations, 14,162 filed income tax statements.  This means that more than half of our state’s charities -- 15,013 -- have revenues of less than $25,000 per year – so they do not have to file a federal tax form.  The government requires that these groups just affirm their existence with a postcard.  They probably have no paid staff and are able to offer minimal services to the community.

OK, so statistics can give us an overview of charitable activities in the state, but how does that help the foundation?

NCCS is one of the few resources that provides timely information about rural philanthropy, which is one of the cornerstones of the NC Community Foundation’s mission.  For example, I can “drill down” to find information about a county’s local charities, private foundations, congregations and “bonding social capital,” which is what the site calls groups like Rotary and Civitans.  I use the site during grant season to examine charities’ past tax filings, and our local affiliate boards use the lists to identify groups to contact that may be interested in partnering with the Foundation on local initiatives.

So now you know one of our best “secret weapons,” and I invite you to visit the site to learn more about North Carolina’s – and the nation’s – nonprofit sector.

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