A list compiled by Slate magazine of the largest nonprofits in the U.S. finds that the revenue of healthcare systems and institutions of higher education far outpaces that of organizations operating in other sectors of the nonprofit economy.
Based on Form 990 data collected by GuideStar, the Slate 90 lists the top ten nonprofits in each of nine categories — arts, culture, and humanities; education; environment and animals; health; human services; international, foreign affairs; mutual/membership benefit; public, societal benefit; and religion-related — for fiscal year 2015, the latest year for which data are available. Organizations reporting the highest revenue across all sectors were Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. ($48.466 billion), Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc. ($22.589 billion), Partners HealthCare ($11.117 billion), UPMC ($10.589 billion), Dignity Health ($10.094 billion), the Cleveland Clinic Foundation ($7.767 billion), and Ochsner Health System ($6.628 billion), followed by Harvard University ($6.609 billion), the University of Pennsylvania ($6.294 billion), and Stanford University ($6.035 billion).
With the exception of the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund ($5.394 billion), which topped the list of public, societal benefit organizations, none of the organizations in the other seven categories came close to matching those totals. Topping the lists in those sectors were the Smithsonian Institution ($1.355 billion; arts, culture, and humanities); the National Geographic Society ($1.073 billion; environment and animals); the American Red Cross ($2.727 billion; human services); Food for the Poor ($1.158 billion; international, foreign affairs); the YMCA Retirement Fund ($644 million; mutual/membership benefit); and Samaritan's Purse ($594 million; religion-related).
"Even within institutions filing 990s, charitable donations make up only a tiny proportion of the amount of money received by many of the organizations....All of it on a tax-free basis," wrote Slate contributor Felix Salmon, who put the list together with the help of GuideStar's Holly Ivel and Chuck McLean. "The nonprofit sector is a hugely significant part of the U.S. economy, and it interacts with, competes against, sustains, and supplies much of the taxable economy that we encounter on a daily basis....Every single organization on this list represents a significant tax expenditure; collectively, they represent a massive pot of uncollected taxes that, ultimately, need to be made up by the rest of us."