Skip to main content

What to know about nonprofit organizations

As a donor, you can make a real difference, which is why it’s important to learn about the organizations you support and understand how they work. Find out what large charities are, how they make money and get answers to some of the most asked questions so you can feel confident in your charitable giving. 

Donate Now Learn More About St. Jude

Aerial shot of the St. Jude campus

What is a large charity?

A large charity is a nonprofit organization that typically serves a large population. In comparison to smaller charities, large charities employ more people and, because of this, have higher operating costs. Additionally, to sustain themselves, larger charities often engage in more widespread marketing across a greater set of populations and markets.

While there's no standard definition of a large charity, the Forbes 2023 list of the largest 100 charities in the United States was based on an annual revenue of $186 million or more. A charity’s size doesn’t define its ability to do good work, but it can change the way the organization operates.


How do nonprofits make money?

Nonprofits rely heavily on donations and fundraising — that is, contributions from the general public. These funds are used to support the mission of the nonprofit. Large charitable nonprofits, such as St. Jude, also use these contributions to cover administrative costs, including facility operations and employee salaries. 

Learn About the Operating Model of St. Jude


Can nonprofits make a profit?

Yes. In fact, it’s normal practice for a nonprofit to generate revenue and even have a surplus at the end of the year. However, what makes a nonprofit different from a for-profit company is how the extra money is used. A for-profit business may pay out owners and shareholders, while nonprofits must put the excess funds back into the organization. 


How do charities use donations?

The specific uses of donations vary depending on the charity organization and what they do. At St. Jude, approximately 89% of the funds necessary to run St. Jude comes from our generous donors. How is that money used?

  • Patient treatment: Treatments for pediatric cancer at St. Jude can last up to three years or more with an average cost of approximately $450,000 including travel, housing and food. St. Jude treats more than 8,000 patients per year.
  • Travel, housing and food: At St. Jude, we cover the cost of housing, travel and food for patients and their families.
  • Operating costs: It currently costs nearly $2 billion to sustain and grow St. Jude each year, and the cost is estimated to grow to $2.2 billion by 2027. In addition to patient care and treatment, this cost includes the facilities we construct and use, employee salaries and groundbreaking research efforts. 

Learn More About How St. Jude Uses Donations

Patient Ava wears a colorful outfit and sits on her mom's lap in a hospital room.

St. Jude patient Ava and her mom


How are charities governed?

Nonprofit and charity organizations are regulated in several ways. First and foremost, all nonprofit organizations must have a board of directors. At St. Jude, we use multiple boards of directors as well as a board of governors.

Although an internal governing board is important, there are also external sources regulating nonprofits. State charity regulators in the attorney general’s office are responsible for maintaining a list of nonprofits and investigating any cases of fraud or abuse.

Additionally, the IRS is in charge of ensuring nonprofit organizations comply with the rules and requirements of their tax-exempt status.


Large charities FAQ

  1. Yes. Nonprofits are required to submit their financial statements, as well as salaries for directors, officers and some employees, to the IRS. If you’d like to review a nonprofit’s financials, you can request a 990 form from the IRS via a 4506-A form, an online resource or the organization directly. 

  2. Yes. One of the most common questions regarding donations to large charities is whether small donations make a difference. Unlike other hospitals, the majority of funding for St. Jude comes from generous donors — every donation makes a difference in the lives of the children we treat and their families. 

  3. Yes, nonprofit employees get paid. Organizations are required to pay their employees according to federal and state laws. 

Patient Quincy holds up a photo of himself when he was younger and in treatment at St. Jude.

St. Jude patient Quincy


Why support St. Jude?

Support from our community of donors ensures families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — so they can focus on helping their child live.

When St. Jude opened in 1962, childhood cancer was largely considered incurable. Since then, St. Jude has helped push the overall survival rate from 20% to more than 80%, and we won't stop until no child dies from cancer.

Donate Now


You might also be interested in ...