What if somebody asks to see our 990s?
So, you get a strange phone call at the office – somebody wants back copies of the organization’s 990. Feels a little invasive doesn’t it? Or like…. what do they want them for? Are we in trouble? What should you do?
Ask them how they’d like to receive their copies.
Yup, hand it over. With a smile.
Most 990s are publicly available anyway.
Anyone can find them free online at CitizenAudit, Guidestar, National Center for Charitable Statistics and Foundation Center – this last one is my favorite because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require you to create an account.
And even if your filings weren’t picked up by these information harvesters, nonprofits are required to give members of the public the last three years of 990 filings. Most reputable nonprofits publish their 990s and current audited financial statements on their websites. It’s viewed as a best practice in the nonprofit sector and I’m always surprised when I come across an organization’s website that is missing this information.
You need to hand over the goods. But it’s also ok to ask for the contact information of the person who’s calling. That way if it’s a journalist you will have a heads up about who is doing research on the organization and you can consult with the right professionals if there’s a public relations nightmare brewing.
And hey, it may just be a savvy donor doing their due diligence before making a big gift. That would be a good thing.
Have you ever been taken by surprise with an unexpected information request? I’d love to hear your stories. Tweet me – @JessBirken.