Disclosure and Data: Are the Media Up to It?

The new data to be reported and disclosed via the 990 can usher in a new era of transparency for non-profits, but this grand scheme relies in part on the media actually using that data. So far, the track record is not so hot, particularly for traditional media.For example, here we are at the end of another quarter, and fund-raising numbers will be released through the Federal Election Commission. What will local media report? Will they pick up a wire service story on the top 10/50/100 contributors to various campaigns?

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New 990: Part VI

Part VI of the core of the new Form 990 for exempt organizations requests information about policies regarding governance, management, and disclosure. This information isn't required by the Internal Revenue Code, but the responses will flow through the 990 to guidestar.org and other Web locations. This is the aspect of the new form that will change the world for some non-profits and their funders. Nothing prevents an organization from giving the "wrong" answer to a question or from providing a phrase such as "flipping a coin" for the Schedule O documentation of procedures.

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New Requirements for Public Disclosure by Non-Profits

With the first tax-exempt returns for a fiscal year starting in 2008, new forms will be used and new standards will apply. This is the long-awaited step forward in transparency and board accountability we've been waiting for. There's an excellent summary of the issues on Patterson Belknap's Web site here.

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