Archive for NonProfits


NewsInNumbers has posted this project page with access to various documents that will help you cover nonprofits.

If you’d like to be added as a collaborator on the project, contact me.

A path to shelter

Clarke County makes inroads on homelessness, while neighboring Hall meanders


Denese Humphries is afraid to look back at her life as an alcoholic.

After living under a bridge for a year in Gainesville, Ga., Humphries was finally able to walk away and pack her bags for Turning Point Hospital, a rehabilitation center in Moultrie.

“I’ve got to quit looking at the past and go on,” she said. “There’s hope to get out. I met many people who came to help under the bridge, some I can’t remember, and that’s awful. That’s really embarrassing.”

Humphries declined to talk much about her life before the bridge or what happened when she faced alcohol cravings, health problems or painful circumstances.

“I don’t want to go back that far,” she said. “Don’t you think we’re ashamed when we walk out under that bridge? I know I am. Then what do you do? You want a warm place, which is where I’ll be one day.”


Humphries, 49, was one of about 300 homeless people in Gainesville in 2011, local organizations estimate. In neighboring Athens-Clarke County, the homeless number grows to 500, making the two counties the highest in homeless population in Georgia’s northeastern corner.

Humphries is among the few to move on to the next step in her life. Read more

Athens-Clarke and Gainesville-Hall homeless update

Hey guys! I’ve got my outline and sourcing for you today. I’m open to ideas about questions, additional sources. I hope everyone’s story is going well!


Emerging theme: Community collaboration. There are tons of organizations in both communities, but it’s about knowing where to go for which services. Do the homeless people know this, and do the volunteers? Awareness could largely address the gap, I’m thinking.


The big questions:

How do these organizations measure effectiveness in relation to permanent living situations and recidivism?

What services do they give (housing, food, clothes, job help), and how is that available in the community?

What gaps or overlaps does each stakeholder see, and what is the perception about how the groups work together in the community?

How do donors evaluate accountability and gaps?

Read more

Homeless services in Athens-Clarke County (and Gainesville/Hall County)

In looking at nonprofits in Athens-Clarke County, it’s interesting to note the difference in revenues for foundations and organizations connected to the University of Georgia versus the low-income groups I’m trying to investigate in the city. Some of the sororities and fraternities even beat out important ACC services in the top 50. That could be a fun numbers story in itself.

I decided to delve into homelessness (and JoAnn into mental health) as we looked at how low-income people are helped in the county. At first glance, it looks like there are several groups that help address the housing problem in Athens, but when I dug into it further, I saw that these groups are interconnected and run by the same people. So in Athens, maybe the story is about how different aspects of homelessness are addressed — the Athens Homeless Shelter tackles the housing, Athens PBJs (created by a UGA student who graduated my year, actually) looks at the issue of food and friendship for the homeless, and two or three groups focus on the rehab aspect of substance abuse. Do these organizations work together, or is there a gap? (From past interviews with the Athens PBJ founder, there’s a gap, of course) Does the group that addresses housing in particular have a good handle on the situation, or do we actually need additional aid with homeless shelters in Athens? What will the Athens Resource Center for the Homeless (created in 2011) do to help the Athens area, and is the group pushing it forward successfully?

If these questions seem tenuous or broad, I thought about a particular story I was covering in Gainesville/Hall County when I left the newspaper there. There are actually several groups trying to help with the homeless housing issue in Gainesville that address it in very different ways, and one group is seeking to pull them together. In addition, a group of churches are trying to band together to create a homeless housing network (Interfaith Hospitality Network) that has been formed successfully in counties such as Gwinnett. I still have contacts with these groups, so it could make for an interesting look into how these different organizations are trying to provide shelter, especially because I know they probably haven’t been able to pull together in consensus yet. The fact that homelessness is so high in Gainesville is also surprising — something that seems a bit more ignored or shoved under the rug up there than here in Athens.

I could do both stories. Or I could combine them and look at how nonprofits in neighboring counties are addressing homelessness in rather different ways. I welcome feedback!

How well do nonprofits assist the poor?

In an online conversation with David R. Jones, the president of the Community Service Society of New York, a reader asked bluntly:

There are so many nonprofits dedicated to fighting poverty that waste both private and taxpayer dollars and never lead to any real results. How can nonprofits be held accountable for their lack of results?

Jones defended nonprofits by saying, “Part of the problem is that over the past two decades there has been a massive transfer of programming for the poor from the government to non-profits. The assumption was that nonprofits could do the job better and cheaper. The record is decidedly mixed.

“Nonprofits have been starved of adequate resources, denied cost of living increases and lack infrastructure. Moreover, the assumption that tax deductible dollars from foundations and individuals would provide significant support of charities serving the poor, hasn’t materialized.”

[NOTE: We’ll look more at Jones’ assertion about charitable donations in the “Giving” section of this project.]

Jones said that the solution would be to give “more resources to allow nonprofits to provide adequate pay and training to its workers — along with heightened accountability and metrics to insure that quality services are being provided.”

The economic downturn has hurt nonprofits. Results of the 2012 survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund showed that demand is up year after year, but only about half of the organizations were breaking even.

With little data to measure whether the services are worthwhile, budget cuts have hit both effective and ineffective programs. Reporting can show whether “quality services are being provided” – and by whom.

What follows are general steps to try and answer the question, “How do nonprofits in my area serve the poor?”

You will probably want to choose a particular problem in the community – homelessness, low literacy, health services, nutrition – and follow these steps with that problem as your focus. Read more

Special crime unit: B-I-N-G-O

What's under the table?

BINGO is big business. Georgia has almost 200 active bingo operations that grossed more than $24 million in 2006.

And the Georgia Bureau of Investigations has a special unit for bingo looking after all that money.

It is one of three types of legal gambling (the lottery and raffles are the other two)… but it’s only legal for nonprofits.

This is not just your momma’s recreation. “Bingo is a cash flow business that leaves ample room for misuse,” says GBI.

“Annually, millions of dollars pass through the hands of Georgia bingo operators…. In 2006, the average game grossed $143,406 annually with many games located in metropolitan areas grossing over $300,000 annually.”

If you hear about a hot bingo game in your area, you might want to look into it.


StopKony or stop Invisible Children?

One page at a time: 990 Forms

Nonprofits perform many services worldwide, and they get public money – donations as well as grants and government contracts – to do so.

Good intentions, though, can pave … well, some bumpy roads. It’s up to you to make sure nonprofits in your community are walking the straight-and-narrow path with public money.

As we saw in a previous post, there are several places to go for basic information about individual nonprofits. The form 990, however, is a primary source.

In this post, we’ll look at the Page 1 summary of the 990 form so that you can quickly find the most useful information for your story.

This page is like a tip sheet: It gives you the clues you need for questions to ask and other places to look. Read more

Case study: 990 for a boy’s home

To get a better idea of how to use a 990 to prepare for an interview, let’s look again at the form we saw in the post about Page 1 of the 990.

The assignment was to do a feature about a home for at-risk boys, which has been operating for several years. We know from compiling a list of nonprofits in the county that this home is among the top 20 in terms of income and assets, so it’s worth looking at.

The founder is a local man who says he’s been running the charity out of his own pocket, but is now raising funds so that he can cover the monthly operating costs for housing the boys and to expand operations to include girls.

Although licensed by the state, he doesn’t want to accept state funds for foster placements, because the government would not allow him to run it as a Christian home.

Potential donors will need to know more about this organization, to decide whether they want to support it. We can help them by checking the public records to verify the founder’s story.

By spending 10 or 15 minutes to read the 990 form, we will be able to pull the basic facts and some background about the boy’s home that we can’t find on their website. This gives us a few simple numbers to include in a sidebar or fact box about the organization.

Reading the 990 also will save us time during the interview. We can focus on the quotes, description and other details that make the story interesting.

Here’s Part I Read more

Using the Ruling Date

This helpful background is from the National Center for Charitable Statistics

Using the Ruling Date (RULEDATE) for Research

The IRS Business Master Files include a field (RULEDATE) indicating when registered nonprofit organizations obtained formal recognition of their tax exempt status by the IRS. (In other words, when the IRS approved their applications for exempt status.) NCCS typically uses this as a proxy for when an organization was created. However, one should understand its origins and flaws before determining how best to use it in one’s research.

Limitations are of two types:

– Nonprofit corporations — the majority of organizations — must incorporate before they register with the IRS. This could occur at more or less the same time as they file with the IRS, but may also occur a year or more earlier. (Incorporation is handled by state governments.) Moreover, some organizations begin informally without any formal legal structure. Thus, depending on one’s definition of “founding,” the ruling date may or may not be adequate as a proxy.

– Prior to the 1960s, IRS nonprofit information was maintained in paper form only and recording of ruling dates appears to be spotty.