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Research Guides

Nonprofit Management

Doing a Subsector Analysis

A subsector analysis is more often seen in business and industry but it can also provide valuable insight into nonprofit activities.  That said, there are not a lot of resources that may provide guidance or a model.  There are just a few to get started (and, as always, check in with your instructor if you have questions about a specific assignment):

There are a lot of ways to approach a subsector analysis, with number of nonprofits, financial data, populations served (and relevant demographics), geographic comparisons, etc. Given the information that is available through Guidestar and NCCS (as well as nonprofit documents), here are a few that are relatively common:

  • number of nonprofits in a subsector (within a defined geography or comparing regions) - you may also want to limit this to nonprofits with financial activity (revenues or expenses of at least $1) because it usually cuts the field in half
  • limiting by type of filing (i.e., 501c3 public charity) can also be useful
  • per capita population (using Census) served in a specific geography (total population of an area divided by # of nonprofits in the same area) - doing this allows a comparison across regions) - also, looking at population density or land area for cities/MSAs will provide some valuable context
  • looking at growth over time of the subsector (in # of non profits or financial measures)
  • the financial data can be problematic - the documents need to be downloaded and totaled outside Guidestar to get an idea of financial measures for an entire subsector.  An alternative may be to sort by revenues and analyze the top 3 to 5 nonprofits as cases.

Additional variables may look at more granular financials, giving trends, staffing (or salaries).  It is also not uncommon to use mapping software to look at geographic reach or areas without access.

Additional data to support Subsector analysis