Your Not-for-Profit’s Reputation is Out There

The internet contains a wealth of information.  You may not be aware, but it also contains information about your not-for-profit organization for the world to see.  Your not-for-profit organization’s tax-exempt status and reputation, whether good or bad, are at everyone’ fingertips—just a click of a mouse away.

The Internal Revenue Service has an online search tool that allows the public to easily check on information about tax-exempt organizations.  The online search tool, titled Exempt Organizations Select Check, helps users select a tax-exempt organization and check certain information about its federal tax status and filings.  It allows users to check whether an organization:

  • Is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions (Pub. 78 data).
  • Has filed a Form 990-N (e-Postcard) annual electronic notice.
  • Has had its tax-exempt status automatically revoked because it has not filed its required Form 990-series return for three consecutive years.

While the IRS tool provides information on tax-exempt status, there are also other websites that provide information about the reputations of charities and other not-for-profit organizations. They include GuideStar and Charity Navigator.

GuideStar’s objective is to gather and disseminate information about every IRS-registered not -for-profit organization. It provides information about a not-for-profit's mission, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, and governance.  The goal of GuideStar is to enable donors to make better charitable decisions and encourage charitable giving.

Similar to GuideStar, Charity Navigator is a 501(c)(3) organization that works to guide intelligent giving.  Charity Navigator’s goal is to provide donors with what they believe are the three dimensions of a not-for-profit’s operations: financial health, accountability and transparency.  Donors can then make an educated decision before donating to a not-for-profit.

With your not-for-profit organization’s operations and finances available for everyone to see, even possible donors, it’s important to know what they are seeing.  You and your organization’s board members should visit these sites regularly to see how your organization is perceived by donors. If you see something you don’t like, or if your organization has a negative rating, take the necessary corrective steps to fix the issue to improve how donors and the general public perceive your organization.


Brian Collins is an Audit Manager with over 10 years of public accounting experience. He performs audit, review, compilation, and tax services for a wide range of clients in various industries, including not-for-profits and automotive dealerships.

Contact Brian

* Required