thumbnail image of Causes Count coverSo just how powerful is California’s nonprofit sector today -- and what impact does that have on the economic and social well-being of our state? The California Association of Nonprofits commissioned Causes Count to find out!

The study will report on the characteristics and impact of California's large and diverse nonprofit sector, highlighting the impact nonprofits have on communities and their role as leaders of innovation.

I commend CalNonprofits for undertaking a project of this magnitude: the first-ever statewide study of the California nonprofit sector and its economic impact."


Be among the first to see the results!

The report will be released at our annual policy convention on August 1 in Los Angeles:


Why does it matter to the sector?

This will be the first report of its kind to examine the nonprofit sector’s scope, activities and economic impact in the state of California. While some regional research about nonprofits has been conducted, the present state of knowledge about the California nonprofit sector as a whole is extremely limited at best. Our study is designed to address this deficiency.

Study Goals

The overarching goal of this project is to provide information about the economic impact of California's nonprofit sector, to identify trends to support improved decision-making, and to increase the political and community clout of the sector's leaders.

This project anticipates the following outcomes:

  • 1.  Nonprofit leaders will have compelling data to share with decision-makers at the local and state levels that supports nonprofit sector engagement in relevant policy developments.
  • 2.  The nonprofit sector will be viewed as a partner in policy development and implementation
  • 3.  Establish the value of a Nonprofit Advocates Caucus in the state legislature comprised of legislators with nonprofit backgrounds
  • 4.  Data derived from this report will inform future research and establish the baseline for future analyses of California's nonprofit sector
  • 5.  Support organizational development for CalNonprofits and the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego

Study Design

The study will use econometric models, national and state databases, and two surveys -- one of nonprofit leaders and one of the public -- to develop a comprehensive profile of the issues and opportunities that exist in the sector and to build understanding of how nonprofits serve as a partner to business and government.

Data sources will include, but will not be limited to:

  • California’s Employment Development Department
  • State Attorney General of California
  • National Center for Charitable Statistics (Caster Center has a full subscription)
  • Proprietary Caster Center data on giving, volunteering, and public confidence

While some segmented data can be found through Guidestar, the Foundation Center, the Cultural Data Project, the National Center for Charitable Statistics and others, this study will have much information that goes beyond the 990 data on which much of those are based. Examples include employment data and imputed economic impact findings.

Content areas may include:

  • Volunteerism, Giving, and Public Confidence
  • Snapshot of California’s Foundations and Grantmaking
  • Nonprofit Employment and Wages
  • The Financial Contribution of California’s Nonprofit Sector to the State’s Economy
  • Descriptive Information on California’s nonprofit sector

Study Research Site


Caster Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego has been selected by CalNonprofits to lead the project. The mission of the Caster Center is to study issues of strategic importance to the nonprofit sector and to identify and advance best practices in nonprofit research and evaluation methods. Its work is focused on understanding the economic landscape of San Diego’s nonprofit and philanthropic sector in relationship to the broader economy. Last year, the Center released released the State of Nonprofits Quarterly Index which tracks key economic indicators for San Diego’s nonprofit sector. This index and all other Caster Center work may be viewed at


Study Research Team

Steering Committee

Statewide Advisory Committee

Study Funders

jif-logo    weingart-logo   Annenberg-logo        Hewlitt-logo2        Parsons



Interested in following the study?

Contact Kristen Wolslegel, Study Project Manager, to receive updates and a copy of the study when its finished.