Maximize Your Form 990 as a Public Marketing Tool

Jenna Romain

Many nonprofit organizations rely on their CPA to prepare Form 990, but there are some key areas that nonprofit managers can help prepare to maximize their Form 990 as a marketing tool. Form 990 has many different users including contributors, funders, and the general public. Because it is public information that anyone can access, users may be looking at your 990 that you do not even know about!

Anywhere that a narrative appears on Form 990, it should be seen as an opportunity for the organization to tell users what the organization does and how its mission is making an impact in the community. The largest area on the form in which to tell the organization’s story is in Part III - Statement of Program Service Accomplishments. In this section, the organization defines its mission and also splits program revenues and expenses between its top three program areas, with a fourth “other” category available if needed. In this section, it is advisable to include current-year program highlights; the more factual and robust the information, the greater the potential impact. Think about adding details about the program names, the number of participants, quantifiable outcomes, etc. Additionally, Schedule O - Supplemental Information to Form 990 or 990-EZ has many answers for various questions on Form 990, including how compensation is set, how conflicts of interest are handled and the review process for the Form 990.

Much like the worded sections, Part IV - Checklist of Required Schedules should be reviewed in detail for any unique items about the organization. Many questions about the nonprofit organization appear on this schedule, including (but not limited to) questions about significant donations, related-party transactions, special events, grant making, lobbying and non-cash contributions. A “yes” answer will require additional information from your Form 990 preparer.

Finally, various sections give readers an idea of the size and scope of the organization. Form 990 discloses the names of officers and directors including their compensation, the number of volunteers, the number of employees, the number of grants given by the organization and details of special event revenue and expenses. An entire section on governance structures and policies is also included.

While there are many other nuanced areas of Form 990, these are three examples of areas that the organization should review in detail annually. While the CPA preparer may have a good idea of what you do, someone at the organization is best suited to describe the day-to-day details. In addition to financial management, consider having a marketing or development staff member read the Form 990 to ensure it is presenting the organization to the public in the best possible way. A properly completed and reviewed Form 990 could be a useful leveraging tool for organizations.

For more information about Form 990, please contact your Yeo & Yeo professional today.

Jenna Romain

Jenna Romain

CPA

Jenna Romain, CPA, is a manager in the firm’s Ann Arbor office. Her areas of expertise include audit services with a focus on nonprofit organizations and school districts, and single audits. She is a member of the firm’s Nonprofit Services Group. Contact Jenna via email at jenrom@yeoandyeo.com or call 734.769.1331.