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By Tyler Bates, HoganTaylor Tax Staff

When an organization is required to file a Form 990, it must be made available to the public. Since these forms are readily available for public inspection, it’s a good idea for a nonprofit to spend some time thinking about what this form reveals about the organization.

What’s on a Form 990

The obvious information on the 990 is the financial status of the organization. Secondary items that are usually not as obvious, are not financial in nature.

Governance Information

The Form 990 reveals a lot about how an organization is governed. Information about the organization’s strategic leadership structure (including compensation), strategies and policies are all included on the form.  Organizations must also include information about how they monitors their policies.

Other regulatory items also appear on the form. On the expenses page, there is a column for “management and general expenses”.  This will show how the management has used funds for internal and governance activities.

Program Information

Also listed on a Form 990 are the organizations programs. Programs are the activity(s) that the organization accomplishes for exempt status. On the revenues page, there are dedicated lines to see amounts the organization has received from their programs. On the expenses page, there is a column listed out for “program service expenses.”  This will show the expense incurred while performing the tax-exempt activities.

Fundraising Information

Nonprofits must disclose fundraising information on the Form 990. This information includes how the organization solicits financial support and attracts new donors (i.e. golf tournament or dinner). These sections of the form reveal how money is spent to help raise money outside of the general contributions.

Leveraging the Form 990

Each category of the Form 990 listed above have supplemental schedules that give the reader more detail about certain non-financial information. Since this form is open to public inspection, and available for three years, the organization’s staff, board, donors, and volunteers should be aware that the non-financial information can be a good public relations tool.


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