Nonprofit Data Project of the Aspen Institute


Publication: 2013-08-22


Since 2007, the Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation has convened leading figures in the field of nonprofit research and data to discuss and assess our nation's nonprofit data collection system. These meetings have provided a unique and neutral forum for discussion, deliberation, information-sharing and consensus-building.

Today, as government, civic and business leaders address a wide range of serious challenges, many will reach out to nonprofit groups for help only to find themselves hampered by a lack of up-to-date information on this important sector in our society. Those needing to understand and track trends in nonprofit revenue, spending, service provision, employment, volunteering and other critical aspects of philanthropic activity will find that most of this information, when available at all, is two-years-old or more. This is too late to deal with problems as they arise, or to signal to communities and policymakers that new challenges are emerging. What's more, information that is available is sometimes inaccurate, due to problems with misclassification, inconsistent reporting and other data errors. In short, despite employing nearly 10% of our nation's workforce and contributing at least 5% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the nonprofit sector sorely lacks timely and accurate data.


Name:Owen Ambur


Name:Aspen Institute



  • Program on Philanthropy and Social InnovationAbout PSI -- Grantmaking foundations, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and public-private partnerships offer lasting solutions to societal challenges. They are at the heart of civil society. This program seeks to inform and maximize the impact of these social sector actors through leadership development initiatives, convenings, and communications so that each can contribute to the good society at home and abroad. The Program's theory of change rests on the premise that if their leaders have clarity about their values, are collaborative in their approach to problem-solving, and are aware of the strategies and potential partnerships available to them, they are more likely to succeed in advancing the social good. The Program hosts the Aspen Philanthropy Group, an agenda-setting body of foundation, nonprofit, and private sector leaders at the cutting edge of change. The issues its members identify are subsequently considered in cross-sector working groups, with the aim of gaining consensus where possible and spurring collaborative action when opportune. Among the current workshop series is an effort to ensure high-quality and accessible statistical data on social sector activity. The Impact Economy program strand is committed to using the convening power of the Aspen Institute to advance this nascent field and nurture a more sustainable, inclusive andd stable economy. The Program's leadership development initiatives include the American Express Foundation-Aspen Institute Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders, the Aspen Philanthropy Seminar-Aspen, and the Seminar Series for Mid-America Foundation CEOs. Through communications and partnerships the Program works to showcase emerging leaders, effective programs and current trends in philanthropy and to share the knowledge gathered and generated by the Program's convenings.

  • Nonprofit Data Project ParticipantsPrimary participants include representatives from GuideStar, the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, the Foundation Center, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Together these groups play a critical role in informing our society of the size and scope of the nonprofit sector, the level of charitable giving and volunteering, the contribution of the sector to the nation's economy, the level of employment in the nonprofit sector, nonprofit performance, and other important aspects of social sector activity.

  • GuideStar

  • National Center for Charitable Statisticsat the Urban Institute

  • Foundation Center

  • Center on Philanthropyat Indiana University

  • Center for Civil Society Studiesat Johns Hopkins University

  • Cinthia Schuman OttingerFor more information on the Nonprofit Data Project, contact Cinthia Schuman Ottinger at