Who is Looking at Your 990?

It’s been said that more people will look at your Form 990 than your Annual Report. The IRS requires nonprofits to make their Form 990 available for public inspection. Individuals can access your organization’s Form 990 without you even knowing. The most common place to find public inspection copies is at GuideStar.org. However, there are many other sites that provide access to the forms.

So who is really looking at your return and why? The IRS is viewing the forms for compliance requirements as well as identifying areas of concern. Prospective board members are most likely pulling a copy of your return to learn about your organization. Many grantors and major donors will view the form before providing financial support. Your competitors will view your form and compare themselves to you. Others include state agencies, reporters and media and watchdog groups that may be trying to benchmark you, seeing how you spend your money, or looking for a story.

If you think no one is looking at your Form 990 you are wrong. It’s important to prepare the Form 990 to meet IRS requirements as well as to meet public perception judgments. Have you looked at your Form 990 from the view of the general public? If so, what story does it tell?

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