How Do I Find Financial Information For Non-Profit?
October 4, 2021 6:12 PM   Subscribe

I am thinking of being involved with a nonprofit curating some pages for them online. I would like to see their financials to get an idea of how the it being run and if it is worth my involvement. Where would I go to find this information? Guidestar looks to be the answer. It is also expensive. Looking for other low-cost options
posted by goalyeehah to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is a free database of IRS Form 990 filings here.
posted by Mid at 6:16 PM on October 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

Came here to recommend Form 990! It's great for this purpose.
posted by rachelpapers at 6:18 PM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Guidestar has a free membership that lets you see the last three years of 990s.

If you're looking at charities based in California, the California Attorney General has a searchable database here.

Also check and see if your local library has a subscription to the Foundation Directory Online.
posted by mogget at 6:21 PM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

On a related note, many nonprofits post their 990s and financial reports on their website. If this organization does not, you could suggest that they do. Their response may be informative.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:36 PM on October 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Any non-profit for whom you are considering volunteering should be very happy to share financials with you. Most post their financials on their website, but if they don't just email them to ask! I can't imagine I'd want to volunteer for a non-profit that isn't willing to share financials.
posted by ssg at 6:50 PM on October 4, 2021

I have found 990 filings by Googling "[name of org] 990" and often their 990s are on their website, but just not linked from any existing page.
posted by MonsieurBon at 7:41 AM on October 5, 2021

I'm the treasurer of a tiny California nonprofit, and most of our info is in the public database, but there's some routine processing time, so our most recent 990 isn't there yet. My understanding is that I am required to share our most recent Form 990 with anyone who asks. I'd be happy to do that for a potential volunteer, including offering to discuss it and answer any questions. But fair warning, I'd also probably use that conversation as an opportunity to encourage the person to join the board and help us steward the financial health of the organization. :D
posted by dreamyshade at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

FYI Guidestar and Foundation Directory Online have merged and the organization is now called "Candid." They offer the same services that they did as separate organizations and have retained some of their former branding.

Anyhoo, the free version of Guidestar is the easiest way to get access to 990s if they're not already posted on the nonprofit's site. You have to create a login, but you don't have to pay anything. You'll mostly see 2019 990s and some 2020 990s at this point. (Orgs don't file 990s until five months after they close their fiscal year, so there can be a significant delay.) Foundation Directory Online isn't going to be much help; it's a great way to see what foundations have given grants to the organization and what grant funds they distribute (if they are a grantmaker) but FDO doesn't really have much insight into organization governance or finances.

That said, I'll caution you that just looking at financials isn't necessarily going to tell you very much about "how it's run." I mean, it depends on what you mean by that.
posted by desuetude at 1:31 PM on October 5, 2021

I work for a small non-profit. We don't do volunteers, but anyone with a legitimate request for our financials (in the form of 990s) are supposed to be able to get a copy. I usually check once a year to make sure ours made it onto the list that Mid linked above.

Agree that the financials won't tell you how well run an organization really is, though. You might ask for their articles of incorporation and the bylaws, and see how well the bylaws in particular reflect how the organization is actually run. Many NGOs I work with haven't updated their bylaws in decades, and the mismatch between how the organization is supposed to be run vs. how it's actually run can be very instructive.
posted by gemmy at 7:43 PM on October 5, 2021

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