Christian Nonprofit Organizations, 2005

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These data represent almost 2,000 of the largest parachurch Christian nonprofit organizations based in the United States. The data were built using forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 2005. Variables include measures of revenue, expenses, activities and religious identity as measured by the organization’s statement of purpose.

Data File
Cases: 1,941
Variables: 202
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: 2005
Funded By
College of the Liberal Arts, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. William Form and Dr. Joan Hube
Collection Procedures
After creating the list of included nonprofits, the first step of data collection was to enter the financial information of each organization from its 990 tax return for the year ending in 2004. All of the revenue, expense and asset lines on page 1 (Revenue, Expenses, and Assets) and page 2 (Functional Expenses) of the 990 form were entered into a database. For those organizations required to fill it out (specifically, those not claiming church status), information on revenue from the previous 4 years and lobbying activity from Schedule A of the 990 form were also entered.

After this information was entered, internal accuracy checks were conducted by using the totals entered from the forms against computed totals created from entered parts. For example, Total Revenue was entered directly from the 990 form, but another “Total Revenue” was computed using parts entered from the 990 form that goes into the Total Revenue number. Any discrepancies were then checked against the forms and corrections made. In some cases, the issue was due to an error in the original form. Because it was sometimes impossible to know what exactly was incorrect in the forms (i.e., was the total incorrect or were one of the subparts incorrect? If the latter, which subpart?), these cases were left as they were on the original forms.

The financial data collected from the 990 forms provided critical information on the identified organizations. However, some key concepts of interest could not be measured by financial numbers alone, such as the organization’s activities and how each organization expresses its religious identity. For both these measures, the primary investigator looked to the “Statement of Program Service Accomplishments” provided in Part III on page 2 of the 990 forms. Each form was coded as having 1 of 27 primary activities. These primary activity codes were created inductively based on informal examinations of many organizations and 990 during the identification of organizations.
Sampling Procedures
To be included in these data, the organization had to:

1. be a 501(c)(3) public charity
2. identify as Christian
3. have revenue more than $200,000 in 2004
4. operate in at least two U.S. states and/or in a foreign country and
5. not be under the financial or administrative control of a church or denomination.

With the criteria for inclusion set, the next step was to find the organizations that met the criteria. The closest thing to a list of Christian nonprofits is the National Center for Charitable Statistics’ (NCCS) database of all nonprofits that submit annual tax returns. Looking through every one of the over 303,000 nonprofits contained in the 2004 database to determine which ones fulfill the criteria would be an impossible task. Fortunately, the NCCS provides some guidance by assigning each organization a code based on its activities or mission. This coding system is called the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE). Organizations with a Christian code or unspecified religion code were examined.

Using the NCCS’ database, queries were run to limit the returned organizations to those with total revenue above $200,000. Once the names of the organizations were found, the actual digital (i.e., scanned) 990 tax return for the organization was then located using either www.guidestar.org or www.foundationcenter.org. Using the self-description located on the 990 form, it was determined whether the organization fulfilled the other criteria concerning national/international scope, Christian identity and were not official denominational organizations. Any organizations that fulfilled these criteria were then added to a list of included organizations.

Because it is possible that some Christian nonprofits would not have been identified using just the methods described above, particularly because some Christian nonprofits may be classified with a different code (e.g., Education), four other sources were also consulted. The first was the membership list of the Evangelical Council of Fiscal Accountability. The ECFA has just over 2,000 members and many are large national organizations. Also, the over 500 organizations listed on the Christian “watchdog” website www.MinistryWatch.org were also examined for eligibility. Keyword searches (e.g., “Christian,” “ministry,” “Bible,” “God,” “faith”) were also conducted on www.CharityNavigator.org and the Associations Unlimited database to identify any other potential organizations for inclusion. While a handful of organizations were solely identified by one of these four sources, the large majority of organizations identified were simply confirmations of organizations already identified through the NCCS’ database.
Principal Investigators
Christopher Scheitle
Related Publications
Scheitle, Christopher P. 2010. Beyond the Congregation: The World of Christian Nonprofits. New York: Oxford University Press

Scheitle, Christopher P. 2009. “Leadership Compensation in Christian Nonprofits.” Sociology of Religion 70: 384-408.

Scheitle, Christopher P. 2009. “Identity and Government Funding in Christian Nonprofits.” Social Science Quarterly 90: 816-833.