Anatomy of an investigation
Tampa Bay Times
The Center for Investigative Reporting
IRE San Antonio 2013
Dowload the complete investigation at: http://cironline.org/reprints
Read it online at:
Roughly 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations
About 6,000 use outside fundraisers
Only a small fraction have ever been disciplined
1. Why would a charity, year after year, give the bulk of the $ raised in its name to an outside fundraiser?
2. What happens after a charity or professional fundraiser gets in trouble?
The fundraising Data
includes about 8,000 regulatory actions taken by states against all kinds of charities and solicitors.
We're in the news business, but history matters.
Tip #2: Who are the regulators?
What cases are they most proud of?
Is there a pattern to how they investigate cases?
What tools do they have?
What are the limits of their authority?
Data entry leads to connections
Nonprofits are primarily regulated at the state level. Every state collects different information
- North Carolina Secretary of State - tax filings (990s), contracts, location of phone rooms, home addresses of board members, scripts
- California Attorney General - founding documents, older tax filings (990s)
- Colorado Secretary of State - documents online and database available upon request
more tips for taking on an investigation of your own
Figure out how much they're spending on programs
From the 990:
(Part IX, Line 25, Column B)
(Part IX, Line 25, Column A)
But watch out for accounting tricks
One red flag: Non-cash revenue and expenses
One example: Gifts-in-kind sent abroad
(Schedule F on the 990)
Another red flag: 'joint costs'
Part IX - Line 26 of the 990
FOIA your state regulator for local charities' filings.
Registration forms often ask about disciplinary actions in other states.
Check their answers against our nationwide disciplinary database.
You might find some stories.
When you've got a year's worth of information, try to organize your major "findings" for each story on a spreadsheet.
Your final story may look nothing like this initial scaffolding, but it helps to crystalize your key points.
Presentation publicly available at: