The economy’s middle child. Though a major part of the economy, the nonprofit sector is poorly understood and maybe a tad underappreciated

You might call it part of the underground economy: It doesn’t deal drugs, but it helps those that are addicted to them.

You can also call it the middle-child economy, not getting much attention despite the fact that it employs close to one in 10 American workers and has annual revenue in the trillions.

You might even nominate it as the nation’s most productive sector, given its extensive use of free labor.

If you’ve ever been a Scout, belonged to a religious organization, listened to a live orchestra, had a baby; if you’re a veteran; if you’ve volunteered or been a member of a local chamber of commerce—among many, many other things—then you’ve participated in the underappreciated economy of nonprofits.

Ronald A. Wirtz

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Tracking the elusive nonprofit economy

With any research, data can be interpreted in many ways when it comes to analyzing the past, present and future. But with the nonprofit sector, the data themselves warrant some discussion.

Said a 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics research article, “Information about nonprofit institutions remains surprisingly sparse, despite concerted efforts.” The Nonprofit

Quarterly similarly reported last year, “Amazingly, current, accurate information about the size and activities of the nonprofit sector is not available—unlike virtually every other industry in the U.S.”

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