The Identification of the Nonprofit Sector in the Statistical Business Register of Germany – A Feasibility Study
Natalie Rosenski
Business Register, Federal Statistical Office, Wiesbaden, Germany

The social importance of nonprofit institutions, such as sports clubs, charities or welfare organisations, for society is undisputed. The German nonprofit sector has not only grown rapidly in recent years, the growth has also been attended by an increasing interest of politics, science and civil society. Meanwhile the economic importance of the nonprofit sector in Germany was not known until recently. The latest figures concerning the nonprofit sector in Germany were collected by the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project in 1995. That means that so far the statistical business register of Germany, which captures about 3.6 million enterprises that either have an employee subject to social insurance and/or at least 17,500 euros consolidated turnover, did not contain an identification mark that indicates if a unit belongs to the nonprofit sector or not. Within the project 'civil society in figures' the nonprofit sector is now identified in the statistical business register and its macroeconomic importance is determined. Furthermore, the results of the assignment were used to improve the institutional sector classification in the business register according to the European System of Accounts (ESA 95).

The definition of the nonprofit sector is based on the United Nations' (2003) 'Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts' and says that units of the nonprofit sector are organisations, private, non-profit-distributing, self-governing and voluntary.

The identification of the nonprofit sector in the German business register was mainly done by an automatic algorithm that assigned the units by using already existing characteristics such as legal form and economic activity. By that method the majority of the units were identified as nonprofit or rather for-profit enterprises. Approximately 60,000 enterprises, which could not be allocated by the algorithm, were researched via internet and manually assigned to the appropriate sector.

The paper and presentation will at first illustrate the aim of the project and explain the procedure and its method, particularly with regard to the implementation of the theoretical approach by an automatic algorithm in the business register. Apart from that, final results will be presented and the use of the findings will be shown. And finally, the limits of the project as well as future objectives will be indicated.


Anheier, H. and Seibel, W. (2001): The nonprofit sector in Germany. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Rosenski, N. and Tuemmler, T. (2009): Einbettungs- und Nutzungspotentiale des Projekts 'Zivilgesellschaft in Zahlen' in die Wirtschafts- und Sozialstatistik. In: Auf dem Weg zu einem Informationssystem Zivilgesellschaft, ed. Anheier, H. and Spengler, N., Essen, pp. 67-72.

United Nations (ed.) (2003): Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts. New York: United Nations.

Keywords: Nonprofit sector; Business register; German; Enterprise

Biography: Natalie Rosenski has a master's degree in social sciences. For the last two years she worked at the Federal Statistical Office of Germany as a member of academic staff in the business register department. Since then she is assigned with the identification of the nonprofit sector and the improvement of the institutional sector classification in the statistical business register.