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Researching Non-Profit Organizations: Home

Sources and Strategies for Locating information on Non-Profit organizations

Non-Profits: What You Need to Know

There are many types of non-profit organizations, and  researching these entities is different than researching a company

Perhaps the best known types are the 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which are charities like the    Easter Seals, the Boys & Girls Club and, the Red Cross. These entities  are exempt from  paying most federal income tax, and donations to them are exempt from tax. There are many varieties of nonprofit organizations beyond 501(c) (3)’s, such as 501(c)(5)’s, which include labor unions, and 501(c)(4)’s, which include social welfare organizations. Each type has its own rules about things like eligibility, lobbying, electioneering and whether donations to them are tax deductible, and each is covered by a different subsection of the 501(c) section of the tax code. See the listing of other major types of non-profits further down on this site.

This guide will help you understand the different types of non-profits, the key jargon and terminologies, and where both inside and outside of the library you can target the names of non-profits you are seeking, locate financial and other operational  data, and locate a range of further useful  sources for keeping up with the non-profit industry.

Glossary of Terms

The following glossary was provided by GrantSpace, which describes itself as a "learning community for the social sector, providing easy-to-use, self-service tools and resources to help nonprofits worldwide become more viable grant applicants and build strong, sustainable organizations. See the full glossary published by GrantSpace here

Annual report A voluntary report issued by a foundation or corporation that provides financial data and descriptions of its grantmaking activities.

Assets The amount of capital or principal -- money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources -- controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program.

Capital support Funds provided for endowment purposes, buildings, construction, or equipment.

Community foundation A 501(c)(3) organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region.

Community fund An organized community program which makes annual appeals to the general public for funds that are usually not retained in an endowment but are instead used for the ongoing operational support of local agencies.

Company-sponsored foundation (also known as a corporate foundation) A private foundation whose assets are derived primarily from the contributions of a for-profit business.

Cooperative venture A joint effort between or among two or more grantmakers.

Corporate giving program A grantmaking program established and administered within a for-profit corporation.

Endowment Funds intended to be invested in perpetuity to provide income for continued support of a not-for-profit organization.

Federated giving program A joint fundraising effort usually administered by a nonprofit "umbrella" organization that in turn distributes the contributed funds to several nonprofit agencies.

Fiscal sponsorship Affiliation with an existing nonprofit organization for the purpose of receiving grants.

General/operating support A grant made to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project. Also called an unrestricted grant or basic support.

General purpose foundation An independent private foundation that awards grants in many different fields of interest.

Grantee financial report A report detailing how grant funds were used by an organization.

Grassroots fundraising Efforts to raise money from individuals or groups from the local community on a broad basis.

Independent foundation A grantmaking organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation. Independent foundations may also be known as family foundations, general purpose foundations, special purpose foundations, or private non-operating foundations.

In-kind contribution A contribution of equipment, supplies, or other tangible resource, as distinguished from a monetary grant.

Matching grant A grant that is made to match funds provided by another donor. See also: challenge grant; employee matching gift.

Operating foundation A 501(c)(3) organization classified by the IRS as a private foundation whose primary purpose is to conduct research, social welfare, or other programs determined by its governing body or establishment charter.

Payout requirement The minimum amount that private foundations are required to expend for charitable purposes (including grants and, within certain limits, the administrative cost of making grants). In general, a private foundation must meet or exceed an annual payout requirement of 5 percent of the average market value of its total assets.

Private foundation A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with funds (usually from a single source, such as an individual, family, or corporation) and program managed by its own trustees or directors.

Program officer A staff member of a foundation who reviews grant proposals and processes applications for the board of trustees.

Program-related investment (PRI) A loan or other investment (as distinguished from a grant) made by a foundation to another organization for a project related to the foundation's philanthropic purposes and interests.

Public charity A nonprofit organization that qualifies for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Public charities are the recipients of most foundation and corporate grants. Some public charities also make grants.

Qualifying distributions Expenditures of a private foundation made to satisfy its annual payout requirement. These can include grants, reasonable administrative expenses, set-asides, loans and program-related investments, and amounts paid to acquire assets used directly in carrying out tax-exempt purposes.

Seed money A grant or contribution used to start a new project or organization.

Set-asides Funds set aside by a foundation for a specific purpose or project that are counted as qualifying distributions toward the foundation's annual payout requirement.

Tax-exempt Refers to organizations that do not have to pay taxes such as federal or state corporate tax or state sales tax.

Trustee A foundation board member or officer who helps make decisions about how grant monies are spent.

Library Databases

Whether you need to create a target list of certain types of non-profits (e.g. all animal cruelty non-profits located in a certain city, etc.)  dig deep into a single one, or keep up with news and developments about one or more non-profits, there are library databases that can help you and are described below. Note however, that if you are specifically researching the financials of a particular non-profit, there are Open Web resources, listed in the below section, that are specifically designed just to help researchers with that task.

The databases listed below can also be found in the Business Resources LibGuide, as two of many sources provided in that guide for finding information about companies. These two are listed here in this section as well because these are the ones that also gather and include data non-profits as part of its larger collection of data on companies and other organizations.

ReferenceUSA. This is a company database  that has the greatest coverage of non-profit entites of all of our business databases.

Factiva. This is a business news database that includes company information as well. It contains data from D&B that provides information for over 437,000 non-profits  (and 693,000 educational entities).  

Open Web Resources

There is a good deal of valuable research resources available on the open Web. Some of the most popular sources are those that permit anyone to find and view a tax form, called a Form 990, that all nonprofits need to file each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt organization. The form reveals detailed financial information, as well as other data about the nonprofits operations, funding, key executives and more. [The only kind of nonprofit that has tax exempt status by the IRS that does not have to to file Form 990 every year, are those with less than $200,000 in revenue and less than $500,000 in assets.]

Finding and Searching Form 990s

Candid

CANDID. CANDID is the organization that was created after a 2019 merger of two prominent entities that provide information in the non-profit space, GuideStar and The Foundation Center. You can search and view the actual PDF filings of the 990s on CANDID here

ProPublica Non-Profit Explorer:  ProPublica's Non-Profit Explorer provides summaries of 3 million tax returns from tax-exempt organizations. You can view  financial details such as executive compensation and revenue and expenses.

Citizen Audit logo

Citizenaudit.org. This site permits keyword searching of form 990s

Other Open Web Databases

 

Image result for charity navigator

Charity Navigator: Charity Navigator provides data on 1.8 million non-profits, with a special focus on determining the financial reputation of a charity  

Image result for National Center for Charitable Statistics

National Center for Charitable Statistics, A national clearinghouse of data on non-profits in the U.S. TIP: Use the Table Wizard, to build summary statistics

Catalog of Non-Profit Literature: A keyword searchable database of books, articles, DVDs, pamphlets and other formats that relate to non-profits, with a special emphasis on assisting those that run or manage non-profit organizations. Note that only a small percentage of the items are available instantly and at no charge; others are only bibliographic, or identify a library with the item in its holdings.

IRS: Tax Exempt Organization Search

Tax Exempt Organization Search helps users find information about a tax-exempt organization’s federal tax status and filings including organizations whose tax exempt status was revoked, which will occur if an organization does not file the required Form 990 returns annually for three consecutive years.

 

Further Resources

You can also keep up with the latest news, developments and trends in the nonprofit sector by reading key trade publications as well as publications, events, and other informational releases from professional organizations that serve the nonprofit sector. Below are our selections of the leading sources for learning and keeping up with the non-profit world.

Journals

Advancing Philanthropy

Alliance

Grassroots Fundraising Journal

Nonprofit World Magazine

Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Nonprofit Quarterly

The NonProfit Times

Associations

Giving USA

National Council of Nonprofits:

Other Resources

Think tank search: Public policy research organizations, which issue white papers, hold conferences, blog and advise on policy creation, are typically non-profit entities. This specialized Google custom search engine lets you conduct a keyword search (using Google search methods) on hundreds of think tank sites around the world. The site was created by the Library at Harvard's Kennedy school.

Below are two other sites that can help you research non profit organizations:

https://www.propublica.org/nerds/resources-for-investigating-tax-exempt-organizations

https://grantspace.org/resources/knowledge-base/researching-nonprofit-donations/

 

Further Resources

You can also keep up with the latest news, developments and trends in the nonprofit sector by reading key trade publications as well as publications, events, and other informational releases from professional organizations that serve the nonprofit sector. Below are our selections of the leading sources for learning and keeping up with the non-profit world.

Journals

Advancing Philanthropy

Alliance

Grassroots Fundraising Journal

Nonprofit World Magazine

Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Nonprofit Quarterly

The NonProfit Times

Associations

Giving USA

National Council of Nonprofits:

Other Resources

Think tank search: Public policy research organizations, which issue white papers, hold conferences, blog and advise on policy creation, are typically non-profit entities. This specialized Google custom search engine lets you conduct a keyword search (using Google search methods) on hundreds of think tank sites around the world. The site was created by the Library at Harvard's Kennedy school.

Below are two other sites that can help you research non profit organizations:

https://www.propublica.org/nerds/resources-for-investigating-tax-exempt-organizations

https://grantspace.org/resources/knowledge-base/researching-nonprofit-donations/

 

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