A New Era in Nonprofit Accounting: Trends, Data Sources, and Research Opportunities

The field of nonprofit accounting research has seen remarkable growth and diversification over the past two decades, fueled by the advent of accessible, digitized data sources. Julie M. Mercado, Linda M. Parsons, and Kyle A. Smith’s paper, „The Growing Field of Nonprofit Accounting Research: 21st Century Data Sources, Topics, and Opportunities,“ published in the Journal of Governmental & Nonprofit Accounting, offers a comprehensive overview of this evolution. The authors highlight how the digitization of Form 990 filings by the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) and the emergence of other data sources have revolutionized the way researchers approach nonprofit accounting studies.

Before the availability of digitized data, researchers faced significant challenges in collecting and analyzing nonprofit financial information. The manual process of obtaining Form 990 filings from nonprofits or state offices was not only time-consuming but also limited the scope of research due to the labor-intensive nature of data collection. The transformation brought about by the NCCS and other sources has effectively democratized access to nonprofit financial data, enabling a broader range of research questions and methodologies.

Mercado, Parsons, and Smith’s analysis reveals a significant increase in nonprofit accounting research output, with studies now published across a wide variety of journals. This expansion reflects the field’s growing importance and its relevance to understanding the financial health, governance, and impact of nonprofit organizations. Researchers have leveraged diverse data sources, including state-level healthcare reports and ratings from nonprofit agencies, to examine factors influencing organizational performance, managerial behavior, and donor decision-making.

The paper documents how the evolution of data availability has not only facilitated an increase in research volume but also encouraged a methodological diversity that enriches our understanding of the nonprofit sector. As the field continues to grow, the authors suggest that the trends in data availability and research diversity bode well for the future of nonprofit accounting research. This burgeoning field promises to uncover new insights into the operations, challenges, and contributions of nonprofit organizations in society.