Does Your Form 990 Tell a Story?
Your story is more than just your numbers! Most of us think of a tax return as a regulatory requirement, but nonprofits have a unique opportunity to tell their story through their Form 990. Surveys show that donors, grantors, and potential board members seek out online information about your organization before deciding where their support is most needed and best used. One source of this online information is an organization’s Form 990, which can be easily found on the IRS website, as well as various charity watchdog websites.
To make your Form 990 stand out, consider what about your organization will get the general public excited and entice them to become involved, whether through monetary donations or volunteering. Paint a picture of what has been accomplished over the year – how many people have been served in your programs, what activities you have undertaken, how you have met your goals, etc. Don’t just say “we serve the homeless population”. Instead, say “we housed an average of 25 people each night in our shelter and served 25,000 meals to individuals who would have otherwise been cold and hungry on the streets of our community”. Also be transparent in explaining best practices, related party transactions, etc. Providing the right amount of information will avoid unanswered questions that might turn away potential contributors.
Remember, it’s not just the numbers – the Form 990 is a blank slate you can use to make an impact on anyone reading it. Work with your CPA today to educate the public and create a more effective message that will resonate and stand out!