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Form 990: Tax-Free Marketing

You might not realize it, but there's a marketing advantage to your Form 990.

Are you looking for a creative and free way to market your nonprofit organization? Would you like a forum through which you are able to spread the word of your organization’s cause and overall performance? Did you know that private foundations are required to pay out 5 percent of their assets annually as grants or charitable activities? Would you like for your organization to be in the spotlight for all contributors to see? Look no further than your Form 990.

Most nonprofit organizations are aware of the public’s access to their Form 990. However, very few entities are able to see past the burdensome compliance aspect of the filing requirements to fully exploit the potential of this form. Form 990 can serve as a platform by which nonprofits share their missions, charitable efforts and accomplishments, along with other aspects of the day-to-day operations.

“Form 990 is a platform for nonprofits to share their missions and charitable efforts.”

Consideration of the following questions helps many organizations transform their Form 990 from a basic annual compliance requirement into a far-reaching marketing tool.

Is your organization’s mission fully understood by the general public?
Part 1, Line 1 and Part III, Line 1 of Form 990 offer the opportunity to provide a concise overview of the company’s mission. It is imperative to be straight-forward and succinct with your wording to pique the viewer’s interest since the Part 1, Line 1 field is limited. Part III provides you the opportunity to articulate the organization’s mission in order to communicate the core purpose and focus to your constituents.

Have you highlighted your organization’s positive efforts and accomplishments?
Form 990, Part III, Line 4 allots you the opportunity to brag about your organization’s performance. In this section, you are able to share with readers your organization’s mission as it has come to fruition through various program services. Your organization can use this section to share the program service accomplishments that it has been striving to accomplish through use of specific measurements, such as clients served, and to describe the objectives of a specific activity, whether tangible or intangible.You are required to provide a detailed description of your top three program services by order of expense total, but you may choose to present a narrative for each of your programs.

Who are the key players in your organization?
Part V-A and Part V-B of the form offer an opportunity to provide insight into the leadership structure of your organization. Here you can provide the names of your board members, allowing your readers to learn more about the qualifications and experience they bring to your organization’s mission. You will also report financial information on board members’ compensation, or lack of compensation, which can show the fiscal responsibility of your company or its commitment to altruism, depending on the circumstances.

Marketing your nonprofit organization is a challenge, but it can be aided by fully utilizing the tools you have available. Take advantage of your Form 990 to increase your organization’s transparency by providing the public with clear and pertinent information. For questions or more information on Form 990 or other nonprofit tax and audit services, contact LaPorte CPAs & Business Advisors Senior Manager Sean O’Neill, CPA, CGMA, at [email protected]