In many ways, the vigor of the arts rests on the thousands of nonprofit organizations that present and organize arts programs in communities around the country. In many arts disciplines (such as visual and performing arts, historical and museum organizations, and arts education), nonprofit status is the norm. Most are charitable organizations classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This indicator measures how many nonprofits there are for every 100,000 county residents.

The data come from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute and describe only those organizations that filed IRS Form 990 in 2009. Nationally, the total number of organizations in these categories increased from about 75,000 in 1999 to 113,000 in 2010. It is worth noting that only about 35 percent of these organizations file IRS Form 990 in any given year. The most likely reason that some do not file is that they are small. Organizations with less than $25,000 in total revenues are not required to file Form 990.

With all the attention placed on nonprofit arts in cultural policy and economics, and the nonprofit sector’s special impact on the arts in recent decades, it is especially significant to highlight the availability of nonprofit arts groups as part of a county’s arts capacity. This indicator shows the overall breadth of the nonprofit arts sector in a community as experienced by its residents.

To classify arts organizations, this indicator uses the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE), which includes about 400 different organizational types. Of special interest are those in 43 different categories in NTEE Major Group “A” (Arts Culture and Humanities), such as music, theatre, visual arts, dance, museums, and media, and some in other major NTEE Groups, describing fairs, festivals, libraries, botanical gardens and arboreta, and zoos and aquariums (NTEE B70, C41, D50, and N52). We include these last types in our tally because of their focus on collections and on their continuing educational roles.


Additional Information: Counties with indicator value = 2,539. Average county indicator value = 18.6. Median county indicator value = 12.7.


Fast Facts from the Arts Index

International cultural tourism proves recession-proof. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more.  The U.S. Dept of Commerce reports that the percentage of int’l travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17% to 24%), while those including concerts and theater performances have increased five of the past seven years (13% to 17% since 2003).