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GuideStar, or Find the Form 990

nonprofit photo
Photo by jurvetson

Tis the season!  You may not give as much as Bill Gates (in fact, I bet you don’t).  But, if you give money to any non profits, you should be aware that the IRS requires every 501(c)(3) organization to file a form 990. (This post is not going to be useful to my readers in other countries, but I’d be interested to know if there are analogous services elsewhere.)

That form 990 is required to be publicly available. You can request a copy as well.

But, you may be in the middle of making a donation, or you may not want to contact the organization to request a 990. GuideStar is a non-profit information aggregator, and they have 990’s for most organizations. You do have to create a free account, but that’s it. If you pay for a premium account, you have access to more years of 990s, but I’ve found that for the casual inquiry, what the free account provides is enough.

There is all kinds of interesting information in the 990. Here’s the 2013 990 for the New York City Ballet. In it, we can see that this organization:

  • has 66M of revenue and expenses
  • has millions of dollars of investment income
  • paid 3.4M in advertising
  • paid 20k for meetings
  • has a large number of directors who all work for free
  • pays the ‘ballet master in chief’ 800k in salary

And plenty of other interesting information.

If you are thinking of giving to an organization, you can learn a lot about it from the form 990’s it files.