Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tax Returns for the Tax Exempt

Did you remember to file your personal income taxes on time? I'm sure you did. And I'm sure you put a lot of care and effort into it.

What about your nonprofit organization's filings? As a public charity, your 990 filing each year is public information. You should be sure to remember that when preparing it. Most of us would be content to let the accountants handle the 990 and send it in without reviewing the text, but that would be a mistake.

Did you know that your 990 can be read by anybody with a free log in to In my work, I use GuideStar regularly to research the foundations that I send proposals to for my clients.

As a donor, I also look at the 990s on GuideStar to see things like executive compensation, mission statements, and income and expenses by program. More and more, savvy donors are using this resource before writing their checks.

So, what does this mean for you? Make sure that your finances tell the full story of your organization. Is there anything that would bring up questions from donors? Ensure that your reporting is clear and above-board. Also, that where you get to put in text about your programs, be sure to use that to tell your success stories.

Your 990 is not just a filing between you and the IRS; it is a public relations document which will be read by the public.

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