Investigating Organizations

How can I check up on a nonprofit group?

Federal law requires annual 990 Form tax filings from registered nonprofit groups. Check GuideStar (requires registration but no fee) or the Foundation Center’s 990 Finder. These filings list annual revenue and expenditures  (Part 1, Summary, with revenue tallied in Part VIII and expenditures in Part IX) but often not individual income sources. Other highlights: officer salaries (Part VII, Section A), investments and assets (Schedule D) and grants to others (Schedule I).

Groups with nonprofit status are also required to make these forms available from their office on request. See Guidestar’s explanation of relevant IRS rules here.

The New Jersey Center for Nonprofits also has a good overview. For information on state groups incorporated as nonprofits, see state Department of Financial Institutions database.

What information is available on corporations, including nonprofits, that are operating in my state?

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions maintains a database listing available records from state corporations, including nonprofits. You can use it to find the names and addresses of the corporation’s registered agent, and to orderannual reports, at $10 a pop. Other records, like articles of incorporation, can also be ordered.

DFI also regulates charitable organizations and fundraising organizations. Some financial information is available online.

What can I learn about individual labor unions?

The U.S. Department of Labor requires labor unions to file detailed disclosure of their finances and organization, including assets, liabilities, membership and employee compensation. See the Department’s Union Search form to access. Search tip: Enter the name of the state where the union is based and hit “Submit” at bottom of the form, then view alphabetical list to find a given union and archived reports.

What can I learn about an employer’s record on workplace safety?

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, maintains a database of inspections and enforcement actions. Go to the Labor Department’s Data Enforcement Page and check the box for “OSHA Inspections.” Then you can search by state or zip code and other delimiters. Note: If you check a delimiter like Year of Penalty Amount, you have to specify the desired range in the right-hand column before you can search.

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