U.S. Nonprofit

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines nonprofits as organizations that hold 501(c ) status.  This status exempts them from having to pay certain federal income taxes. There are over 30 types of 501(c ) organizations; the most common is 501(c ) 3 which includes many charitable organizations. Guidestar provides a comprehensive list of types of 501(c ) organizations. It is important to note that some charities do not hold 501(c ) status and are not recognized by the IRS as nonprofits.

Official nonprofit organizations are required to disclose information on an annual basis to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Form 990.  Churches and other religious organizations as well as subsidiaries of a larger organization are exempt from having to file Form 990.  Firms that do not hold 501(c ) status are also not required to file.

Private foundations, considered 4947(a) (1) organizations, must complete Form 990-PF.  For all remaining 501(c ) organizations, the size of their receipts and assets determine which of the 990s they complete.  Organizations with less than $50,000 in receipts complete Form 990-N.  Those with receipts less than $200,000 or assets less than $500,000 may complete Form 990-EZ.  Larger organizations must complete the full length Form 990.

Form 990, like Form 10-K that private sector publicly traded firms file, is the key primary document for not-for-profit researchers.  While Form 990s reports on very different types of organizations than the 10-K they are no less powerful as research documents, and in some instances contain information beyond the scope of Form 10-K. The IRS provides an overview of the contents of Form 990, including its 12 parts and 18 Schedules.

For two excellent resources on 990s see the How to Read the New IRS Form 990 by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York (available for a small fee) and a Youtube video Form 990 produced by Guidestar.

As of June 8, 1999 as part of their 501(c ) status, nonprofit firms must make their From 990 from the three previous years available upon request.  They are also available on a number of websites including: Candid, the National Center for Charitable Statics (NCCS), and the Economic Research Institute.

Form 990s are also available from the New York Charities Bureau for any charities that operate or do fundraising in New York. It often includes a Schedule B: Schedule of Contributors as well as IRS 1023/1024s which are their IRS applications.

On this site we will use only free sites com­monly avail­able on the internet.  Note that there is sec­tion at the end of each question that lists websites that are available only to UMass stu­dents which the gen­eral user will not have access to. You can check with your local pub­lic library or uni­ver­sity or col­lege library to see if these sites are avai­l­able to you.

Explore the Nonprofit Research Chart.  It pro­vides a visual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the kind of infor­ma­tion that needs to be gath­ered and a sequence for con­duct­ing the research on U.S. nonprofit organizations. Look in the Resources Section to find various print versions of this chart.

To begin, start with 01. Basic Information on the right and work down the list to com­plete a basic cor­po­rate profile. Good luck!