August 5, 2016

A Quick Guide to Finding Nonprofit Info.

The word Information in a magnifying glassA request reaches your desk from a new nonprofit. You’re interested, but wisely cautious. How might you learn more about them?

Information on Individual Nonprofits

  1. First stop: your local community foundation’s website. Many community foundations generate databases of active local nonprofits. Here you’ll find lots of information and learn if the nonprofit meets minimum standards. To locate your nearest community foundation use this locator.
  2. Since only some community foundations create databases, your next best option is Google. Before you click on the specific nonprofit, check for copycats and negative reviews-glance at the list of organizations and topics that pop up.
  3. Review their website or Facebook page. Discover annual reports, board list, blogs, missions, and more.  
  4. Join GuideStar–an information consolidator. It’s free. Once enrolled, enter in the nonprofit’s name. Look for the nonprofit’s IRS 990 report. Review the agency’s finances, board member list, and executive salaries.
  5. Evaluators. How does this nonprofit compare to others? Several national evaluators exist including: BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator. The challenge? The relatively small number of organizations evaluated to date. Charity Navigator provides comparative data on 8,000 entities and the BBB 11,300. About 1. 5 million nonprofits exist in the US.

Besides studying the request you received, these five steps will help you to form an opinion about the wisdom on investing in a specific nonprofit. While bad players are definitely out there, the majority of nonprofits that seek your support come with good intentions. Do your homework and invest with confidence.   


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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