The growth of the nonprofit sector


Stephanie Strom has an interesting story in The New York Times about the seemingly unregulated growth of nonprofits in the United States over the past 10 years. During that time, the number of nonprofits has grown by 60 percent, to some 1.1 million, costing the federal government some $50 billion in tax revenue, Strom reports.

The group that approves applications for 501(c)3 status seems to have fairly low standards, giving thumbs up to 99 percent of all applications last year, according to a new report by the Standford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

Check out the report, called “Anything Goes,” which includes a list of the 60 most frivolous charities formed last year.

Among them? Sin for Charity, the Colorado Beer Festival, Planet Jelly Donut, and the Mississippi Magnolia Cloggers.

It seems that no Jewish groups appear on the list.

But there has been tremendous growth in the Jewish nonprofit world during the past decade — Jewish Jumpstart surveyed more than 300 organizations that were founded after 1998 and have budgets of less than $2 million. (Though note in the comments section below that Jumpstart’s CEO, Shawn Landres estimates that there are roughly 200 Jewish 501(C)3 startups. The rest are not required to file 990 tax forms, because they are subsidiaries of larger nonprofits, worship groups not registered with the IRS, or other.)

As much as $500 million has already been invested in these programs and up to $100 million is being spent annually to support them, many of which are considered the heart of Jewish innovation.

As dollars tighten, it’s tantamount that we look at what is necessary.

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