News and analysis
October 27, 2016

How the 2016 Philanthropy 400 Was Compiled

The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400 ranks the U.S. charities that raised the most from private sources in the 2015 fiscal year. Donations include cash, stock, land, and goods such as pharmaceuticals and food contributed by foundations, corporations, and individuals. Government grants were excluded.

The results were compiled from Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, college fundraising figures compiled by the Council for Aid to Education, a survey sent to nearly 520 tax-exempt organizations, and annual reports and financial statements.

Because the Philanthropy 400 reports only on nonprofits in the United States that solicit donations from the public, private foundations were excluded, as were organizations based abroad and any overseas affiliates of domestic groups. The Chronicle did not include nonprofits controlled by government agencies.

Transfers between organizations were not counted in the fundraising totals, nor were conservation easements.

Nonprofits with affiliates were asked to provide consolidated figures that included private contributions raised by those affiliates. In a few cases, organizations with affiliates that did not file a consolidated Form 990 or provide data to The Chronicle were excluded from this year’s rankings.

To provide data for the 2015 fiscal year, some charities relied on draft 990s or unaudited financial statements. Figures that are estimates are noted.

Because fiscal years vary from group to group, the figures in this report do not always cover the same time period. In addition, 2015 figures were not available for 24 organizations, so The Chronicle used 2014 fiscal-year data instead. Those cases are noted.

Historical Data

Because organizations sometimes release or revise figures after publication, we have made updates to our historical data since our last report. Working in conjunction with William Suhs Cleveland, who recently completed his doctorate at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, we have obtained updated figures from GuideStar and the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics and made appropriate updates in this year’s table.

Colleges and Universities

For private and public colleges and universities, The Chronicle uses data collected by the Council for Aid to Education in its annual Voluntary Support of Education survey. Figures obtained from the council, however, are based on a different methodology than that used on the 990. Form 990 filers (and respondents to our survey) generally count pledges in the current year, while the CAE survey asks colleges to include only donations received and not unfulfilled pledges. Colleges and universities whose figures come from the council’s survey are marked with an asterisk.

Colleges’ in-kind-giving data also comes from the CAE survey and includes gifts of real estate and other property as well as in-kind donations from corporations.

Some fiscal data on this list is for individual college branches and some is for consolidated college systems. In most cases, we used data on individual colleges. However, we included some university systems because that’s what was submitted to the Council for Aid to Education. When we used a system’s figures, we excluded the individual branches that make up the system to avoid double-counting private support.

This year’s Philanthropy 400 relies on college-revenue data from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Its annual surveys collect data from every higher-education institution that participates in federal student financial-aid programs. These revenue figures come from the 2014 academic year, the latest for which full data is available. The total-revenue figures for private nonprofit institutions were compiled using the Financial Accounting Standards Board standards and include total income and investment return. Revenue for public nonprofit institutions was compiled using the Governmental Accounting Standards Board guidelines.

Religious Groups

Certain religious organizations not required to file a Form 990. The religious organizations that appear in this year’s rankings shared their financial data with The Chronicle or voluntarily filed a Form 990. Those that did not share their fiscal information or did not file a 990 are not included.

The Chronicle strives to include all eligible charities in the Philanthropy 400. To suggest a group to include, send an email to: research@philanthropy.com.

Send an email to Peter Olsen-Phillips.