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Mixed Economic Picture for Charities

New GuideStar Survey Reveals Both Good and Bad News

The rumors of a recovery in the nonprofit sector may not be premature.

The results of GuideStar's October 2003 nonprofit economic survey show a slight improvement over the end of last year and mirror this summer's mid-year review:


Enhanced Charity Registration, Information and Regulation On The Way


GuideStar Receives Technology Opportunities Program Grant

GuideStar was recently awarded a Commerce Department Technology Opportunities Program grant to help fund the creation of a $1.3 million national on-line charity information system. GuideStar will develop the system in partnership with the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO).

E-Filing Advocates Move Forward


EDIN Launches New Web Site

Electronic filing for tax exempt organizations is an idea whose time has finally come. Beginning in 2004, the IRS plans to give nonprofits the option of filing Forms 990 on-line.

The Electronic Data Initiative for Nonprofits (EDIN) is a collaboration of foundations, nonprofits, and nonprofit associations working toward the ultimate objective of improving nonprofit accountability through on-line technology.

EDIN works with the IRS, nonprofit associations, and state charities officials as an advocate for e-filing, helping to ensure that the sector stays educated and informed as new developments take place. By providing nonprofits with resources and information on e-filing and encouraging government officials to coordinate reporting requirements, EDIN is ensuring that the widespread introduction of e-filing has a positive impact on all involved.

Recently, EDIN further positioned itself as an information resource with the launch of a new Web site.

"We created www.EDINonline.org to serve as a portal for exempt organization stakeholders to have one-stop access to up-to-date news, information, and tools to ensure a smooth transition to electronic filing of the Forms 990 in 2004 and in subsequent years," said EDIN project director Claudia Holtzman.

The Web site offers a wealth of information for nonprofits that are required to file an annual 990. It's also a "must visit" for anyone interested in the wave of change electronic technology is bringing to the world of philanthropy. As an additional source of information, EDIN has begun a monthly electronic newsletter, which can be subscribed to from their site.

"www.EDINonline.org will regularly feature new content from nonprofits, foundations, accountants, software developers, and government regulators on e-filing with the IRS in 2004, and consolidate valuable information from other websites under our 'Related Initiatives' and 'Tools You Can Use' sections," explained Ms. Holtzman. "We welcome suggestions for new content and additional links, and encourage all those who care about streamlining the process of nonprofit reporting, enhancing transparency of the sector, and making more effective use of government oversight resources to join our national coalition."

Wondering what's so important about electronic filing?

For starters, there's the time and money e-filing will save individual nonprofits. It also represents an important step toward improving the quality and timeliness of nonprofit data. E-filing will benefit the entire philanthropic sector by:

  • Streamlining the process of making Forms 990 available to the public, allowing easier access to the most current data available.

  • Integrating e-filing capabilities into accounting software, which will enable nonprofits to file faster and will also improve the accuracy of the 990s.

  • Increasing nonprofit accountability, giving donors the ability to make informed giving decisions and improving donor confidence

  • Bringing the sector closer to consolidating nonprofit reporting forms, especially when e-filing is combined with such projects as the NASCONet on-line charity registration system. Optimally, a single annual form could someday satisfy the needs of the federal government, states, and private foundations.
Ready or not, e-filing is coming. Building on years of hard work by various institutions and individuals, EDIN is working to facilitate a smooth transition. The adoption of this new technology promises a multitude of long-term benefits for nonprofits, government agencies, donors, and institutional funders alike.

The EDIN coalition includes INDEPENDENT SECTOR, the Council on Foundations, the National Council of Nonprofit Associations, OMB Watch, and GuideStar. The Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics and Surdna Foundation serve as advisors.

EDIN's funders include the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Surdna Foundation.

The preceding is a guest post by Patrick Ferraro is a freelance writer in Seoul, Korea, and a former editor of the Newsletter.