Donor newsletters are nice, but Iâ€™m a research glutton who craves more information about her favorite non-profits. If you want a closer look at how humane charities or other non-profit organizations handle their funds, IRS regulations can help. Tax-exempt organizations must provide certain financial information and forms to the public (donors and non-donors) on request.
Feeling shy? No need to walk into a building, write a letter or pick up your phone. You can find records for 1.7 million organizations â€“ both local and national â€“ online at GuideStar.org. Basic registration is required, but itâ€™s free, and other than the general â€œwelcomeâ€ e-mail, my own registration did not seem to generate additional inbox traffic.
After you search for a charity as a registered user, click the â€œView Reportâ€ button. Additional information such as the number of employees and the organizationâ€™s mission may be listed, and you can scroll down further to reach .pdf files of various tax forms related to the organization.
Information varies by form, but may include
â€¢ A list of directors and compensation for those directors, if any
â€¢ Expenses related to salaries and wages, veterinary care and more
â€¢ A list of employees or contractors receiving more than $50,000 per year, if any
â€¢ Revenue broken down by sources, such as adoption fees and private contributions
I enjoy seeing how much money pours into local humane charities, knowing these contributions represent the financial component of an entire communityâ€™s love for animals. When someone comments adoption fees are high during a â€œdonâ€™t shop, adoptâ€ conversation, I can explain such fees are only a small portion of the funds a shelter needs to operate.
Just as IRS forms cannot give you the full picture of a person, such filings will not tell you everything about an organization, its priorities or its logic. Detailed financial data simply offers an additional layer of information.
Perhaps such information could reach beyond individuals to help charitable organizations which seem almost in competition at times. Someone working in breed-specific rescue said many shelters and animal controls transfer animals easily, but some refuse to transfer because they believe her organization makes a profit that way. If a hesitant shelter director viewed the rescueâ€™s tax records, medical expenses alone could expose the myth of profit. Or, if one organization in a city cares for far more animals with fewer funds and more volunteers, but another organization handles more adoptions (receiving more revenue and churning more animals into homes) perhaps some â€œbest practicesâ€ or other ideas and resources could be shared.
GuideStar.org also offers some fee-based subscription services, but I have not explored those at this time.