Inside Track: Give Smarter: Nonprofit Resources for Legal (and Charitable Giving) Research:

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  • December

    Give Smarter: Nonprofit Resources for Legal (and Charitable Giving) Research

    In this season of giving, it doesn't take much to become a victim of a charity scam. How do you protect yourselves, your families – and your clients? These resources are a great place to start.
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    Dec. 6, 2017 – According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S.

    This number includes public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.1

    com BBland dkattorneys Beth Bland is a tech services librarian at Davis and Kuelthau in Milwaukee. Bland is a current member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW), a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries. LLAW's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.

    That’s a lot of ground to cover. So, where’s a good place to start researching a charity or nonprofit? Give these a try:

    Charity Navigator

    Charity Navigator encourages users to “give smarter” using the website’s “objective ratings” to find the information they need. In addition to general searching options, sections include Top Charities, Hot Topics, Tips for Donors, and a “Giving Basket” where users can donate to multiple charities at one time.


    Users can search for and download reports about a charity, as well as review its programs, research its basic financial information, and see its IRS Form 990. Registration is required. Users may access the Premium side for a fee, which offers the same options in more detail, plus determination letters, board members, and salary information for officers and directors.

    IRS Tax Information for Charities and Nonprofits

    Users can find information about applying for tax-exempt status, annual reports and filing, getting reinstated after revocation, tax basics for exempt [501(c)(3)] organizations (through the StayExempt website), educational resources, and guidance.

    Foundation Center’s 990 Form Finder

    Looking for an IRS Form 990 for a specific charity? The Foundation Center has access to nearly 3 million of the most recent forms filed by nonprofit groups. For the most part, these cover the mid-2000s forward, but some earlier ones can be found.

    Marquette Funding Information Center

    The Marquette University Funding Information Center website offers access to research guides, grant application forms, and links to other databases. Some resources are available only by subscription or require you to be at the Raynor Library to access them, but access is free and open to the public.

    Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information: Charity Scams

    The FTC’s website offers information on the signs of a charity scam, specific scams, blog posts, and tips for businesses planning to hire a professional fundraiser.

    Knowledge is Key

    Whether you’ve been giving to charities for decades or your only experience with giving is dropping a couple of bucks into a barista’s tip jar, knowing what to look out for can help you avoid falling victim to scam and ensure that your generosity is in the hands of someone you can trust.2


    1 Knowledge Base,

    2 Better Business Bureau, Wise Giving, Spring-Summer 2017, p. 5.

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