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Foundation Transparency: Game Over?

 

The tranquil world of America's foundations is about to be shaken, but if you read the Center for Effective Philanthropy's (CEP) new study -- Sharing What Matters, Foundation Transparency -- you would never know it.

Don't get me wrong. That study, like everything CEP produces, is carefully researched, insightful and thoroughly professional. But it misses the single biggest change in foundation transparency in decades: the imminent release by the Internal Revenue Service of foundation 990-PF (and 990) tax returns as machine-readable open data.


IRS Releases Electronically Filed Form 990 Data

 

At long last, the IRS has released large amounts of electronically filed Form 990 data in machine-readable format. Approximately 60 percent of the e-filed returns have been made available now on Amazon Web Services, and the IRS intends to provide monthly updates. Efforts to get the IRS to do this have been underway for almost as long as there has been e-filed data, culminating in a successful lawsuit brought by Public.Resource.Org against the IRS after it refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for the electronic Form 990 records of nine organizations.


From the President's Office, September 2009

Dear Friend:


How to Make Your Form 990 Work for You

 


Making Your 990 Work for You

 

Do governmental forms give you the willies? Does preparing or reviewing your organization's IRS Form 990 strike terror into your heart? Don't despair. All you need is a little assistance and a new way to look at the forms.


Results of NCCS Survey on E-filing

 

In March 2002, GuideStar hosted a survey written by the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute (NCCS) on nonprofit attitudes toward filing IRS Form 990 electronically. Some 387 nonprofit managers and board members took it, and the results mirror those of an official NCCS survey of a random sample of 485 nonprofit financial executives. The vast majority of respondents to the GuideStar-hosted survey said that they would try e-filing themselves or recommend it to their CPAs. This is big news, coming on top of recent IRS hints that e-filing will be offered in 2004 for submitting returns for fiscal year 2003.


IRS Form 990 Isn't the Whole Story

 


Understanding the IRS Form 990

 

Once the IRS recognizes an organization's tax-exempt, public charity status, subsequent reporting requirements vary. Most religious organizations are not required to file annual information returns, nor are organizations whose gross receipts are less than $25,000 per year. The majority of recognized charities fall into one of these two groups. All other organizations are required to file an annual information return: 


Measuring an Organization's Financial Health

 

Things to keep in mind when you are evaluating an organization's financial health: