Tag Archive for tools

Make an easy chart

Comparison of four North Georgia counties / Data from US Census Bureau

Numbers can be boring when they’re piled on top of each other.

You can easily make a chart, though, if you put those numbers in Excel.

Here are the basic steps.

When you’ve gathered some comparison data, copy-paste it into a new tab in your spreadsheet.

Remove any columns or rows that are not relevant, and make sure the column headings are worded in a way that readers and viewers can understand easily.

Go to the “Insert” tab.

Select the group of cells that contain the cleaned-up data.

In the Chart section of the Insert tab, choose a format and click on it.

The chart will appear in the body of the spreadsheet. The Design tab will open with options related to charts.

If you don’t like how your chart looks, you can “Change Chart Type” on the Type section of the Design tab. You can also change the color scheme and layout under Chart Styles and Chart Layout.

Fix the wording of text areas by clicking on them. You can also change fonts and type sizes, or delete text areas.



Quick Census tables

A quick comparison of four North Georgia counties

If you need Census data about income and poverty for your county or for a select group of counties, but don’t want to download entire tables (as we show in another post), you can make your own table very quickly.

Start from http://www.census.gov/did/www/saipe/county.html and choose the year and the state.

On the next page, select one or more counties, as well as the state and US for comparison, by holding down the control / command key as you click your selections.

You can choose from several basic fields of information about poverty, such as median household income and percent in poverty.

Voila! An easy comparison that you can use to make a quick chart.


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.


Online sources about nonprofits

NCCS graphic for 2008

When you’re researching a nonprofit, a few simple steps can tell you a lot.

For any organization you are researching, go first to GuideStar.org, make sure their tax-exempt status has not been revoked, and look at the GuideStar summary report.

From there you can also download recent 990 forms for more details. These forms are filed instead of a tax return.

The 990 form must be filed Read more

Pull tables from web page into Excel

Many web sites that offer data searches will return the results in a table.

You could select, copy and paste that table into a spreadsheet or Word document, but that can be messy and laborious.

The cleanest way to get this data from a website is straight from within Excel.

Here are the steps: Read more

Census at IRE

The Investigative Reporters and Editors website has a special section about the census.


From here, you can download data all the way down to the neighborhood (“place”).

The data can be Read more