How can I find more information about an organization’s budget and activities?

A good place to start is a nonprofit organization’s tax return. The Form 990 is a publicly available document that provides information on the filing organization’s mission, programs and finances.

Access 990 forms at the Foundation Center.

  • Enter the organization name and/or other information; a list of matches will appear
  • Click on the most recent year for a PDF of the form
  • Things to look for:
    • Front page: Relative consistency in net assets from previous year
    • Page 2: Good description of the service(s) provided.  Note: smart organizations use this area to describe successes and accomplishments
    • Page 9-Statement of Revenue: A question to ask here is whether the organization might rely too heavily on one source of income
    • Page 10-Statement of Functional Expenses: Does anything look out of proportion? You may want to review one or more of the other Form 990s to check for consistency
    • Part B, Page 2: Review the support the organization has received for the last five years

By law, every nonprofit is obligated to provide a copy of its Form 990 to the public. Some may ask for reimbursement of copy/mailing fees. Many will provide a PDF version.

Guidestar: A great web resource with a lot of information about best practices for nonprofits. You do not need to be a member to use many of the services or read the articles.

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