If Your 990 Were Being Interviewed, What Would It Say?

If you are gearing up for Giving Tuesday and getting all sorts of great promotional materials out in circulation, you may want to consider what potential donors might see when they start to investigate your organization to see if you are worthy.

I had a post that appeared on ArtsHacker today based on a helpful Non-Profit Quarterly article that charts out what sort of information is communicated in each section of your 990 filing.  Obviously, there is nothing you can do between now and Giving Tuesday to change the impression people infer from your 990 filing. Presumably your solicitation strategy extends beyond the next couple weeks meaning there is still an opportunity to affect the information people receive in the future.

The ArtsHacker post that appeared today also drew on some other pieces I wrote. One about the potential for lawsuits by beneficiaries, marginalized board members, donors who use the increasingly easy access to 990 filings as the basis for a claim.  Another dealt with the IRS’ increased scrutiny on good governance and whether an 990 indicated appropriate policies were in place.

As I also point out the 990 doesn’t need to be a major source of worry. The form provides a section for supplementary materials.

“… where you can attach additional information you think is pertinent. This may be a discussion of changes in operational and philosophical direction that resulted in an atypical shift in your finances. This is also an opportunity to mention any points of pride or information of interest to make a case for your worthiness to those who may be perusing your 990 filing to learn more about your organization.



About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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