020 DGM – Find a Charity Form 990 in 3 Minutes

Find a Charity Form 990 in 3 Minutes

Welcome. This is the podcast that helps you do good even better — regardless of which charities or causes you support. 

This is Ed Long. Each week on this podcast I talk about charities and provide actionable tips to help donors and volunteers to take their philanthropy to the next level and do good even better.

Give smart from your heart, because doing good matters.


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Form 990

Main topic

  • Find a Charity Form 990 in 3 Minutes
    • We’re talking again today about the smart part of Give Smart from Your Heart.
    • What’s a Form 990?
      • Each year, most nonprofits are required to file “Form 990″ information returns with the IRS. Failure to file can result in loss of nonprofit status.
      • Unlike an individual return, a charity’s Form 990 or 990-EZ is public information (and a charity is required to make its return available to you on request).

        • Charities with greater assets and/or revenues must file Form 990.
        • Charities with lesser assets and/or revenues file Form 990-EZ (an abbreviated version of Form 990).
        • Charities with annual revenues less than $50,000 file Form 990-N (a very simplified form that tells you pretty much nothing more than the nonprofit’s address).
        • Private foundations file Form 990-PF.
      • A nonprofit can choose to file a higher level return (for example, a charity with annual revenues less than $50,000 could file a Form 990-EZ or even a Form 990).
      • Note: Churches and government agencies are exempt from annual 990 filings.

    • Why look at a Form 990 or 990-EZ?
      • Form 990 and Form 990-EZ provide a wealth of information about the charity’s operations and finances. You can find information like,
        • Its mission and programs where it spends the most money.
        • Its revenues, whether they come from donations, grants or other sources.
        • What portions of its spending go to programs, administration and fundraising.
        • Its highest paid executives and how much they earn.
        • Its highest paid outside contractors and how much they’re paid.
        • Whether it uses outside telemarketing and mailing services, and how much it pays for those services.
        • It will also give you the information to tell whether it is “rolling in dough” or actually needs more donations.
    • How can you find a charity Form 990 or 990-EZ?
      • It’s time for a 3-minute thrill.00-03-00_countdown
      • This involves visits to just two websites.
      • Go to CharityCheck101.org and
        • Find the charity and its report.
        • Cut and past the charity’s EIN (employer identification number) from the charity’s report.
        • Click on the NCCS link at the bottom of the charity’s report — it takes you to the NCCS search page.
      • At the NCCS search page,
        • Enter the EIN in the “Federal EIN” field at the NCCS search page.
        • Click on the charity’s name and go to its NCCS overview page.
        • Click on the Form 990 Filings tab.
        • Click on the download link for latest year shown. It will give you the Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, as a PDF.
      • Watch me do it with the Charity Sherlock video.
  • Your smart and easy assignment for today
    • Find the latest Form 990 or 990-EZ for a charity you gave to recently. Time yourself. You can beat 3 minutes.
  • A big part of giving smart from your heart is knowing your top charities well, and that includes knowing their operating and financial information.
  • Had experiences? Have feedback? Share your thoughts  in the Reply / Comment section at the bottom of the page. Or email me at ed[@]seriousgivers.org

Episode sponsor

  • Today’s sponsor is the website CharityCheck101.org. 
    • Our sponsors don’t pay us anything. But they give us a way to talk about a different charity-related concept each week. And help us all grow our understanding of nonprofits and charities.
    • CharityCheck101.org is your free directory of IRS-recognized charities and nonprofits.
    • The directory includes more than 1.4 million charities and other organizations listed by the Internal Revenue Service as exempt from federal income taxes. This is the friendly alternative to IRS Publication 78 and Exempt Organization Select Check.
    • Charity names are often similar. Similar names produce confusion. More than 16,000 organizations have “Veteran” in their names. More than 1,600 have “Habitat for Humanity.” More than 80 have “American Cancer.”
    • Do a charity check to make sure the group is truly a charity. Not every group that looks, sounds or feels like a charity is truly a charity. Scam “charities” often adopt names similar to legitimate charities, siphoning off dollars needed for good works. They’re specially active around crises, natural disasters and other big news items and causes.
    • Do a charity check to find the organization’s tax status. Before you give, you should know the answers to these two questions –
      • Is the organization recognized as a charity or nonprofit by the IRS?
      • Will a donation be deductible as a charitable contribution?
    • CharityCheck101.org is possibly the best free donor protection tool ever.

Share your questions and feedback

I’d love to hear from you. I read every comment and email.

  • Send a voicemail using the black tab on the right side of any page.
  • Use the reply / comment box below.
  • Send me an email at ed[@]seriousgivers.org.

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About Ed Long, the podcaster

Podcaster Ed Long has been preparing more than 40 years to do this podcast. He knows charities and the rules that apply to them. He’s analyzed charity finances and operations.  He’s founded and run charities, and volunteered for them. He’s helped the public and law enforcement fight fake charities, and has served as a philanthropy educator and coach. Before all that he worked as a partner with a major Wall Street law firm. Ed is the founder and CEO of SeriousGivers, which itself is a charity. Ed knows the great work that strong charities can do with the resources entrusted to them, and is passionate about helping others find and support strong charities.