What Sectors Make up the Nonprofit Industry?

by Staffer Team

A nonprofit organization serves the public interest and is exempt from federal income taxes. There are 6 main sectors in the industry:

Health Services

  • Largest sector in the Nonprofit Industry in terms of economic value and employment
  • Largest share of wages and salaries in the industry
  • Example: American Heart Association: offer a wide range of programs with the end goal of raising awareness about heart disease and its causes


  • Includes colleges, universities, preschool, elementary, secondary schools, libraries and research institutions
  • Produces and disseminates knowledge and research
  • Example: Khan Academy: provides free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere

Social and Legal Services

  • Includes legal pro bono aid counsels, individual and family services, residential care, job training and community and housing development
  • One of the fastest growing sectors
  • Example: Wounded Warrior Project: offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 1, 2001

Civic and Environmental Advocacy

  • Two biggest advocacy groups are: human rights and environment, conservation and wildlife
  • Example: National Geographic Society: uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world

International Relations and Development

  • Includes foreign research and analysis, international development and relief, international human rights, international peace and security
  • Example: Operation Crossroads Africa: sponsors projects related to public health practices 

Arts and Culture

  • The smallest sector in the industry
  • Represents only 2% of the nonprofit sector's total funds
  • Includes performing arts groups, ballet groups, nonprofit radio and television, museums and various humanities-oriented organizations
  • Example: Americans for the Arts: focuses on advancing the arts in the United States

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