Mining 

Nonprofit Data

NICAR 2014    Baltimore

Kendall Taggart

OVERVIEW

-The mini backstory of our recent series with The Tampa Bay Times, America's Worst Charities

-The basics of the form 990

-Tools beyond the 990

-Story ideas

Six charities All Listed at one address


GOING BEYOND AN ANECDOTE

Fundraising data collected by at least a dozen states.


Simple way to strengthen your story:

Go back in time.


un-sexy, Time-consuming steps


  • Get to know the flaws in your data.
    • The ultimate guide: CARwash by Jen LaFleur 

  • Develop a solid methodology
    • Go from data to on-the-ground reporting and back again
    • Share your approach with at least three experts before publication (ideally your harshest critic)

 

USEFUL DATA-Mining TOOLS

1. SQLite - free and easy to install. It comes on Mac OS X .

2. Use a database manager (I use Navicat. A free option is the SQLite plug-in for Firefox.)

3. Open Refine - formerly Google Refine - for cleaning up names.

THE ULTIMATE TIP SHEET ON THE 990


Ron Campbell has a great tip sheet (#3496) on how to decipher the 990 available at ire.org

FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH THEY'RE SPENDING ON PROGRAMS

FROM THE 990:


(Part IX, Line 25, Column B)
(Part IX, Line 25, Column A)

Program Expenses
Total Expenses

BE CAREFUL OF ACCOUNTING TRICKS

#1: Gifts-in-kind
(examples: medical supplies sent abroad)
Schedule F of the 990

exampleFollowing medical supplies to Guatemala

BE CAREFUL OF ACCOUNTING TRICKS

#2: "Joint cost allocations"

Allows charities to count telemarketing as an "educational program"

Part IX, Line 26 of the 990

Total Expenses | Programs | Management | Fundraising
 

Example: Police Charity runs in-HOUSE 

Telemarketing Operation

CHECKLIST OF REQUIRED SCHEDULES

Some juicy questions include:

  • Question 26: did the organization provide a loan to a key employee, trustee, etc.?
  • Question 27: did the organization provide a grant to a key employee, trustee, etc.?
  • Question 28:  'related business transactions' (has the organization been paying a brother, mother, sister, etc.?)

(Checklist starts on page 3 of the Form 990, Part IV)

GOVERNANCE

How is the nonprofit managed?
Part VI

  • Question 2: do any of the board members have a family or business relationship?
  • Question 6: 'significant diversion of assets' - losses attributed to theft, investment fraud, embezzlement and other unauthorized uses of funds in excess of $250,000 or 5 percent of gross receipts

(Starts on page 6 of the Form 990, Part VII)


Example: Washington Post investigation

Tools beyond the form 990:

#1 State records



  • Application for exempt status, and older tax filings in California 

**A special shout-out for audits

Example: Optimal Medical Foundation

We learned in an audit that the only grant an organization had given out was to a company with ties to the president of the charity.

   The charity           The for-profit
 


TOOLS BEYOND THE FORM 990:

#2 Disciplinary actions:

Resource: 

includes about 8,000 regulatory actions taken by states against all kinds of charities and solicitors.

TOOLS BEYOND THE FORM 990:

#3 -The data available from the IRS.

Download here.


Story Ideas 

  • Use the IRS 990 data to develop a list of ledes:
    • Find nonprofits in your coverage area that report high levels of tax-exempt bond proceeds. Many nonprofits have used risky financial tools (NYT story)
    • Find nonprofits with high professional fundraising fees

  • Using the CIR/Times database of disciplinary actions, track nonprofits that are raising money in your area, despite a sordid history.

steal this app





Have Questions?


email: ktaggart@cironline.org
phone: 510.809.2204

Mining Nonprofit Data

By kendall

Mining Nonprofit Data

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