Fun Facts About US Nonprofits, 1971-present

Here’s what the “third sector” has been up to:

  • As of the year 1971, the number of U.S. nonprofits had only recently surpassed 200,000 in number. Today, there are approximately 1.5 million nonprofits (tax-exempt organizations). [1]
  • Only a few years before Nolo’s founding, in 1969, the steady increase in the number of nonprofits had led the U.S. government to sit up, take notice, and pass significant tax regulation of nonprofit activities, including requiring them to file detailed annual reports.
  • Greenpeace, one of the world’s best-known nonprofits, was founded in 1971, under the name the Don’t Make a Wave Committee. Its first act was to send a chartered ship to Alaska to oppose U.S. nuclear testing.
  • In 1971, Americans’ gifts  to charity totaled around $125 billion. Today, the total is approximately $300 billion.[2]
  • The year 2011 is the 410th anniversary of the passage of the Statute of Charitable Uses, an Elizabethan British law that’s considered the grandparent of U.S. nonprofit laws, and was in force in the original U.S. colonies.[3]
  • The largest public charity in the U.S. is the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.[4]
  • President Barack Obama donated the $1.4 million from his Nobel Peace Prize to various charities, including ones helping students, veterans’ families, and survivors of Haiti’s earthquake.[5]