Before supporting a cause, even a good one, it’s important to do your research first. We’ve compiled a few leads to assist you in your investigation.
- The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism has an “Investing Nonprofits Tipsheet” as well as self-guided training on how to investigate nonprofits (as well as other private companies)
- The Foundation Center’s 990 Finder has information on U.S. charitable foundations, including financial reports.
- Guidestar Premium has sophisticated tools that let you compare nonprofits by financial health, number of full-time employees, board chairs, etc.
- The National Association of State Charity Officials links to state offices that regulate charitable organizations and charitable solicitations.
- You can request 990s or applications for exemptions directly from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS website also allows for searching of political organization disclosures and has 990-n postcard searching.
- There are 26 states, such as North Carolina, that require nonprofits to file their annual audits online. (NOTE: Michigan Does NOT require This) The National State Charity Officials (NASCO) lists each state department’s website where you can search for nonprofit audits online.
- The Center for Investigative Reporting published a piece on how to dig deeper into a nonprofits finances.
- The Indiana University archives retain some historical non-profit filings, and you can submit search requests.
- NCC of New York and the Ford Foundation have a very in-depth guide on how to read a 990 to analyze their net assets, look for self-dealing, find out if any officers have left, etc.
- The law that covers tax-exempt organizations is 26 USC § 501 Exemption From Tax on Corporations, Certain Trusts, etc.
- The IRS publishes many useful guides for tax-exempt filers, which are helpful for those trying to understand how nonprofits work, including: Instructions for Form 990-EZ
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes two particularly useful resources: How America Gives, a database that looks at giving patterns in every city, state and neighborhood in the U.S., and America’s Top Donors, a dataset of gifts of $1 million or more to charities since 2003.
Compiled by Diana Kern, NEW’s Vice President of Programs