By REBECCA LATTANZIO
At the base of the journalism process is research. It’s that necessary evil that takes a story from good to great or more importantly, from inaccurate to accurate. Research of finances is often a great place to start. GuideStar is a database of over one million nonprofit organizations. The site offers the reported financial information of these organizations in an easy to navigate format and most of the basic information is free.
Nonprofits may be tax exempt, but they still must disclose financial information each year to the government. This information is generally public knowledge and GuideStar has made the nonprofit world even more transparent by providing information on 501(c)(3) charity status, Form 990 data, and more, all in one spot. You may have to register with an email address to access certain information, but the general content is still free of charge.
Say you type in Little League Baseball, a very popular nonprofit organization, you will be brought to a profile of Little League Baseball Inc. that includes a wealth of information with which you can begin further research. It lists general information like mission statement, contact info, a Web address, and the area of service the organization covers. Then there is a breakdown of the Little League Inc. employees, chief executives, and board of directors. There is also a detailed description of the programs provided by the organization and downloadable pdf versions of their form 990s from the last two years.
All of this information is offered through GuideStar’s basic search. For more in-depth research, you can purchase subscriptions to their Charity Check program or purchase their compensation reports. Best of all is that the info is all based on IRS data so it’s factual and can be verified if need be.
I have used GuideStar for research projects and as a jumping off point for story assignment research. The site is filled with information that is open to the public, but would not be very accessible otherwise. The site and its employees encourage you to dig into the information and do some investigating yourself.