Form 990 is an annual tax return that is required to be filed by most federally tax-exempt organizations. There are different versions of this form, depending on the size and type of the tax-exempt organization. In general, this form asks organizations to report on their mission, programs and activities, and financial information. Churches are usually not required to file a form 990. Also, nonprofits that do not have a tax-exempt status from the IRS are not required to file.
Nonprofits that are looking for private foundation grants should take note of this this very practical and free tool. How you might be asking? Private foundations, which are required by law to distribute a percentage of their assets to 501(c)(3) public charities, must file a 990-PF. By reviewing form 990-PF, anyone can see what kinds of organizations and causes the private foundations support. Yours might be one of them. It also tells you what process the private foundation uses to give grants. Some have preselected organizations; others will take letters of inquiry or applications. Private Foundations that accept letters of inquiry and applications will have the information needed to apply right on the form.
The next important question is Where do you find these 990 forms? Guidestar.com is a very useful resource for 990 research. Guidestar provides 990 forms from organizations and it is free. Guidestar’s information comes from the IRS database, and organizations can also upload information to Guidestar.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, the 990-PF lists the names of the Board of Directors and Officers. Lists of private foundations, and their Board of Directors, that support your type of project should be circulated at regular intervals to your Board of Directors and advisory council. As with any type of fundraising, relationships and connections are the most important part of the development process.
-Larissa Nooni, Law Clerk at Side Project Inc & 2nd Year Law Student, NOVA Southeastern School of Law