How to Look Up 990s for Nonprofits


Title: How to Look Up 990s for Nonprofits: A Comprehensive Guide


For individuals interested in donating to or working with nonprofit organizations, it is crucial to gain insights into their financial status and activities. While various sources provide information about nonprofits, the official IRS Form 990s offer an in-depth understanding of an organization’s financial health, governance, and mission. In this article, we will discuss how to look up 990s for nonprofits, guiding you through the process and providing valuable insights. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions to enhance your understanding of this essential tool.

I. Understanding Form 990:

The IRS Form 990 is an annual reporting return that tax-exempt organizations, including nonprofits, must file with the Internal Revenue Service. Form 990 provides detailed information about an organization’s finances, governance, programs, and activities. It ensures transparency and accountability, allowing the public to assess the organization’s credibility and make informed decisions.

II. Accessing Form 990s:

1. Guidestar: Guidestar ( is a widely-used platform that provides access to nonprofit information, including Form 990s. By creating a free account, users can search for specific nonprofits and access their 990 forms.

2. Foundation Center: The Foundation Center ( offers a comprehensive database of nonprofits, foundations, and grants. Users can explore their extensive collection of 990 forms by utilizing their search tools.

3. Nonprofit Websites: Many nonprofits publish their 990s on their official websites. To find these documents, visit the organization’s website and look for a section dedicated to financial transparency or annual reports.

III. Steps to Look Up 990s:

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1. Identify the nonprofit: Start by determining the name and location of the nonprofit organization you wish to investigate.

2. Choose a platform: Select a reliable platform such as Guidestar or the Foundation Center to access Form 990s.

3. Search for the nonprofit: Enter the name or EIN (Employer Identification Number) of the nonprofit in the search bar provided on the platform. If using Guidestar, refine your search using filters such as location or nonprofit type.

4. Review the 990 form: Once you find the desired nonprofit, click on the link to access its 990 form. Take your time to review the financial details, governance structure, and program descriptions.


1. Why are Form 990s important?

Form 990s provide a comprehensive view of a nonprofit’s financial health, transparency, and accountability. Donors, grantmakers, and potential employees can assess an organization’s financial stability, governance practices, and program effectiveness before getting involved.

2. Are all nonprofits required to file Form 990?

Most tax-exempt organizations must file Form 990 annually. However, certain religious organizations, small nonprofits with limited income, and governmental units may be exempt from this requirement.

3. Can I access older Form 990s?

Yes, platforms like Guidestar and the Foundation Center maintain an extensive archive of 990 forms. You can access older returns to track an organization’s financial history and assess its progress over time.

4. Are there any limitations to Form 990s?

While Form 990s provide valuable insights, they do not tell the whole story. It is essential to consider other factors such as program evaluations, impact reports, and personal interactions with the organization to form a complete understanding.

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Understanding how to look up 990s for nonprofits is a crucial step in assessing the financial health and transparency of organizations before making donations or engaging in partnerships. By utilizing platforms like Guidestar and the Foundation Center, individuals can access these essential documents, empowering them to make informed decisions and support organizations that align with their values. Remember, Form 990s provide valuable insights, but they should be complemented with other research methodologies to develop a holistic understanding of a nonprofit’s operations.