Nonprofit vs. Non-profit: Does a hyphen make a difference?

Businessman tearing the word Nonprofit for ProfitEver wondered whether you should use “nonprofit” or “non-profit”? If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, the answer is: non-profit.

With the hyphen.

I confess I’ve never liked the hyphen in there. It looks clunky. Or sloppy. Or something. So I’ve been a long-time fan of the visually tidier “nonprofit”.

Boy oh boy, was I wrong. At least if my goal was to use a term that would make it as easy as possible for people wanting to market their non-profit to find their way to us here at Claxon. (In my defense, if visual tidiness was my goal, I would’ve been totally justified in eschewing the hyphen.)

Here’s the deal: Using Google Trends, we learn that people search for “non-profit” way more than they search for “nonprofits”. Adding that little hyphen ups your search engine results which, in turn, ups your odds of someone making their way to your website.

Now, what if you’re interested in attracting folks abroad? The hyphen/no-hyphen debate isn’t even relevant. That’s because in places like the U.K., they don’t use either “nonprofit” or “non-profit”. Nope. They use “charity”.

In the U.S., the word charity has a somewhat antiquated feel. It conjures up images of Oliver Twist asking in his most adorable little boy voice if he can please, sir, have some more. Charity connotes a hand out, rather than a hand up.

Not so in the U.K. They have charities. Lots and lots of charities!

So if you’re a U.S. organization or Canadian organisation wanting to grab the attention of donors in the U.K., charity is your term of choice.

This handy dandy chart shows which terms are used most often in each geography.



The graph below will reinforce that if you have a global audience, your hands-down winner is “charity”.









Post Readability Stats: Reading Ease 69.3, Grade Level 6.4

Liked this? Get more.


  1. Ginny Lang says:

    This is great research for marketing purposes and I’m certainly all for being found on web. However, in the United States, “nonprofit” is a legal designation given to a business model by the IRS. As such, that’s how we should be styling it –at least here. When I see someone use non-profit, I assume they are from outside the sector. That’s the point, I guess, since it’s the people from outside the sector that use it to find us. It’s long been a conversation in nonprofit circles that the hyphenated form seems to perpetuate the myth that nonprofits can’t earn income and the related perception that they aren’t really businesses. So although in practical, search engine terms, non-profit is apparently better for results, we should be encouraging the tidier form and encouraging people to use it.

  2. Thanks for posting this awesome article. I’m a long time reader but I’ve never been compelled
    to leave a comment. I registered your blog in my rss feed and shared it
    on my Facebook. Thanks again for this great post!

Speak Your Mind