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What to know about U.S. nonprofit sector demographics

Written on Jun 5, 2024

What’s the demographic composition of the U.S. nonprofit sector—in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability status? Are staff, leaders and board members equally diverse? How does leadership diversity vary by organization size, revenue, subsector and state? How do majority BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous and people of color) nonprofits fare compared with majority white-led ones?  

These are some of the questions Candid’s The state of diversity in the U.S. nonprofit sector report explores. The report aims to increase transparency about diversity in the sector, highlight key findings at the macro level, and offer a snapshot and baseline with which to track efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion.  

Here are some of the highlights: 

Sector leadership does not reflect the diversity of the nonprofit sector. 

The nonprofit sector is racially diverse, but the leadership ranks are not. Based on data from 59,550 public charities that shared demographic data between July 2019 and January 2024, 47% of all staff identify as white, 24% as Black/African American, 19% as Hispanic/Latino, 6% as Asian American/Pacific Islander, 1% as Native American and 4% as multiracial. Yet 70% of CEOs/executive directors (EDs) as well as 66% of board members identify as white.  

At 15% and 6%, Black and Latino CEOs/EDs are especially underrepresented at the executive level. They’re also more likely to lead the smallest organizations—as measured by annual expenses—than large ones. The leaders of 44% of nonprofits with expenses under $50,000 are BIPOC, compared with 27% of those with expenses above $25 million.  

In terms of gender, about 69% of all staff and 62% of leaders identify as women, 31% of staff and 38% of leaders as men, and under 1% of staff and under 1% of leaders as nonbinary. But women leaders are also underrepresented compared with their share of all staff at larger organizations. Women lead 62% of nonprofits with expenses under $50,000 but 46% of those with expenses above $25 million.  

BIPOC women leaders are overrepresented at small organizations  

At the intersection of gender and race, 45% of the nonprofits in this data set are led by white women and 18% are led by BIPOC women—whose representation decreases with organization size. BIPOC women lead 28% of the smallest nonprofits and 14% of the largest. Organizations led by BIPOC women also have fewer resources as measured by revenue.   

Majority BIPOC-led nonprofits have smaller revenues  

Nearly 18,000 of the nonprofits in this data set have a sole CEO/ED and majority racial leadership—i.e., either a BIPOC CEO/ED and at least 51% BIPOC representation on its board, or a white CEO/ED and at least 51% white representation on its board. Of these, 4,613 organizations have majority BIPOC leadership, and 13,384 have majority white leadership.   

Majority BIPOC-led nonprofits tend to be smaller and have fewer resources: 43% have expenses under $50,000 and 25% have expenses above $1 million, compared with 16% and 40% of majority white-led organizations. The median revenue of majority white-led organizations is 54% higher than that of majority BIPOC-led organizations.   

Data on ‘sensitive’ identities is limited.  

The available data suggests that 15% of all staff identify as LGBTQIA+ in the nonprofit sector, higher than in the general population but consistent with other studies. Unlike other identities such as race and gender, the share of LGBTQIA+ leaders is fairly constant across expenses and revenue sizes, at about 9%. People with disabilities make up 15% of nonprofit staff and roughly 10% of CEOs/EDs.   

The report notes, however, that individuals are less likely to share information about sensitive identities—specifically transgender identity, sexual orientation and disability status. Nearly three quarters of the nonprofits in this data set declined to respond or indicated that the information about their full staff’s transgender identity was unknown. Similarly, 79% of organizations did not share information about their staff’s sexual orientation.  

While the report is designed as a benchmarking resource, it also calls on funders interested in diversifying their grantmaking portfolios to expand their networks and applicant pools and, if they decide to collect demographic data, to do so only in a way that does not add to the administrative burden of nonprofits.   

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