3 Common Ways to Find Form 990s for Nonprofits

All 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are obliged to submit Form 990s annually. The forms are publicly available records about the nonprofits' financials and offer great insight into the organization.

The information within 990s can be incredibly beneficial for nonprofits looking to receive funding dollars through grants. Below, we dive a little deeper into what a Form 990 for nonprofits is and three of the best ways to find and analyze them to discover the information you are after.

What is a Form 990 for Nonprofits?

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The IRS's primary tool for identifying tax-exempt organizations, informing organizations about tax law regulations, and encouraging compliance is Form 990 for nonprofits.

Nonprofit organizations can use Form 990 to notify the public about their operations and programming. Further, some states use Form 990 to fulfill state income tax filing obligations for organizations claiming tax exemption from state income tax and for charitable and other governmental monitoring.

Depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit, there are four standard versions of Form 990, each with its own set of filing requirements.

  1. The complete 990 Form - this form is mandatory for nonprofit organizations with annual revenues of $200,000 or more or with assets totaling $500,000 or more.
  2. 990-EZ - this is for charitable organizations with a lower annual revenue (above $50,000 in total gross revenues and under $50,000.)
  3. 990-N or commonly referred to as the e-Postcard - this option is for nonprofits who meet the exact requirements as those set forth for the 990-EZ and is the simplest version to file.

990-PF - this form is for private foundations.

Where to Find Form 990s for Nonprofit Organizations

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All U.S. tax-exempt nonprofits are required by the IRS to make their three most recent Form 990s available to the public.

Please be aware that it may take 12 to 18 months after the end of an organization's fiscal year for its most recent Form 990 to become accessible online.

Below are three common methods for locating an organization's 990s.

IRS Website

The IRS website offers free access to Form 990s for nonprofit organizations. You can look up nonprofits’:

  1. eligibility to accept tax-deductible donations as a recognized nonprofit.
  2. review the organization's tax-exempt status information and filings.

Guidestar

Every tax-exempt organization registered with the IRS is included on GuideStar.

GuideStar receives its data from partners in the nonprofit sector, the federal government, and nonprofit organizations. It is free for users to register for an account. Users can register as an individual or a nonprofit. While Guidestar is a comprehensive database, it still requires ample time to dig through the information to find what you are looking for.

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To locate a Form 990:

  1. Use your registered email address and password to log in at www.guidestar.org.
  2. In the toolbar at the top of the page, select the Search option, which will then direct you to the Search page.
  3. You can enter a keyword, the organization's name, or the Employer Identification Number (EIN) to locate a nonprofit.
  4. To read the nonprofit profile of an organization, simply click on its name, and you will have access to its 990.

ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer

With ProPublica nonprofit explorer, you can review over 14 million tax filing records and Form 990s dating back as far as 2001, as well as browse IRS data that has been made available since 2013.

This database allows you to examine summaries of more than three million tax returns from tax-exempt nonprofit organizations and review financial information about their revenue and expenses, executive remuneration, and other organizational financial information.

Additionally, ProPublica links to PDFs and electronic versions of the complete Form 990s whenever possible, in addition to the raw summary data. Some key search features offered by ProPublica include

  1. The ability to search for a nonprofit by state, category, and type of organization ranging from 501(c)3 to 4947(a)1.
  2. The ability to search for a particular person associated with a nonprofit organization, with an expanded search option to narrow the search further.

How Finding Form 990s for Other Nonprofits Can Help You Find Good-Fit Grants

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You're not alone if the grant application process intimidates or is foreign to you. You may have heard tales of the lengthy wait times, voluminous paperwork requirements, and appalling rejection rates—and may not even be sure where to begin looking for a grant.

But we are here to tell you that it doesn't have to be challenging to identify and apply for grants, especially if you find Form 990s from other nonprofit organizations that are in similar areas of service as yours.

The key grant funders for an organization are listed on their Form 990s, so that's a fantastic place to start your search for grants that may align with the mission of your nonprofit organization.

When reviewing IRS Form 990s for nonprofits, begin your search by identifying organizations with goals and missions comparable to yours. Next, identify the grantmakers who have provided funding to these nonprofit organizations to determine if your nonprofit could potentially be a good candidate for an upcoming funding cycle.

For example, if your nonprofit helps wounded veterans, looking through other nonprofits' 990s in your geographical location that also support veterans can help you pinpoint which grantmakers funded them.

Keep in mind that grantors have vision and mission statements, just like nonprofit organizations, and work to realize them through their grantmaking initiatives. Consider what kinds of grantors might help your organization because the majority of grantmakers exclusively fund certain areas of need.

For instance, a women's shelter seeking grants to provide temporary emergency housing for women and children will want to search for grantors with a strong interest in abuse and domestic violence.

How Instrumentl Can Extract Insights from Form 990s and Help You Win More Grants

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Searching for grants can be a daunting challenge, especially if you are a newer nonprofit or serving a sector where grants are highly competitive.

The good news is, if your nonprofit is tired of endlessly searching for grants and coming up empty-handed, Instrumentl can help solve this problem!

While you can find 990 forms using the methods explained in the previous sections, extracting the details you need can also be time-consuming and overwhelming to sort through.

Instrumentl has eliminated the headache of searching through endless lines of 990 forms and streamlined the process with its 990 Snapshot tool shown below.

Instrumentl’s 990 Snapshot tool breaks down Form 990 details so that you can more easily assess whether a funder would be a good fit for your nonprofit. This Snapshot feature is just one of many tools Instrumentl offers to streamline the grants application process.

Let’s break down how Instrumentl can ease the burden of searching for grants:

  1. You can begin to search for grants on Instrumentls extensive grants database. As an added bonus, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial period to take full advantage of all that Instrumentl has to offer.
  2. Another really helpful feature is Instrumentl’s incredibly easy-to-use reverse search tool, which allows users to filter by state and organizational mission rapidly. This reverse search tool has a Past Grantees section of a funder's profile and allows users to quickly find past grantees who have supported causes related to their own.
  3. Lastly, the foundation search tool allows users access to the most complete list of nonprofit funders, including federal, state, and private foundations. Instrumentl has compiled a massive list of over 146,338 private foundations supporting nonprofit organizations and includes their 990 Forms.

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Wrapping Up: Next Steps to Take from Here

Next Step

Form 990s are one of the most proven strategies for finding funders that align with your nonprofit's mission and vision. Instrumentl’s 990 Snapshot tool helps you find the best-suited grants and funders for your organization. The only thing left to do is to begin analyzing the 990s and start applying for grants yourself! 

Do you have further questions about grants, how many to apply for or are confused about where you should begin? No worries! We have you covered and can walk you through the grant application process and even help you pinpoint how many grants your nonprofit organization should apply for. Check out the linked resources to best prepare yourself for your next fundraising!

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