“Too Many Notes” Nonprofit Style

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Featured article: “Vital Records: Births and Deaths in the Nonprofit Sector.” 

I hate hearing people blow off about there being too many nonprofits. It’s like saying there are too many small businesses. Granted, you may not want too many restaurants on the same block, unless it is meant to be a destination site; and it might not work to have too many clothing shops in town, unless you banned the development of Walmart. But simply saying that there are too many small businesses is just uncontextualized nonsense, in my not-so-humble opinion. And the same goes for the aforementioned flatfooted opinion about nonprofits.

Thus, when we started to put together the most recent edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly, we knew that we had to have an article centering on the numbers of births and deaths of nonprofits in recent years—especially through the recession and the great nonprofit purge by the I.R.S. What kinds and sizes of organizations officially gave up the ghost over the last decade, and what kinds and sizes of organizations were registered as born? So we asked Chuck McLean, GuideStar’s brilliant and insightful vice president of research, to help us surface and make sense of those numbers.

The result is “Vital Records: Births and Deaths in the Nonprofit Sector,” and although it only scratches the surface of the demographics of our sector, it is fascinating. Why, for instance, have so many really large organizations died?

All of which brings me to the “too many notes” line which is one of my favorites from the movie Amadeus. Watch it and then let’s just swear away from pompous pronouncements devoid of meaning.

Read this exclusive article here, and please let us know what other questions you have about the demographics of our great sector. We will try to track the answers down.