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Finding good leads for grant funding (or doing prospect research) can be one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of grant seeking. A very helpful step in this search – in the American context at least – is to look up a grant maker’s recent filings of Form 990-PF or Form 990. Such forms, and others like them, are the detailed yearly information returns grant makers submit to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


This post discusses where grant seekers can find and view these returns. An earlier post discussed how to extract useful information from a Form 990-PF.


Grant Maker Information Returns:

Each year, private foundations in the United States of America must file a Form 990-PF with the IRS. The 990-PF is a public document that provides the filer’s address and contact information, identifies the filer’s executive officers, board of directors, and trustees, and presents financial data about the filer. It also describes the filer’s grant application procedures and deadlines and presents a complete list of grants awarded in the reporting period. Most such filings are available in Portable Document Format (PDF) and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, which is free software downloadable on the Internet.


In the United States, only private foundations must file Form 990-PF. Community foundations and grant-making public charities must file Form 990. Direct corporate giving programs are not required to file any annual information returns with the IRS.


Foundation Center Finder Tools:

The Foundation Center is an invaluable resource for researching grant makers’ filings of Forms 990 and 990-PF. They are accessible on its website via the 990 Finder, a free searchable database of 990-PFs and 990s filed by American private foundations and charities. In addition, researchers may look up private grant makers in the United States using the Foundation Finder. This free tool provides basic information as well as access to 990-PFs and 990s.


Other Options:

Researchers have other options than the Foundation Center. Registered users of GuideStar may use a free feature to examine or retrieve 990-PFs in its searchable database. They may also subscribe to more extensive and specialized premium services that provide access to information on Forms 990 and 990-PF. In addition, the Economic Research Institute has an extensive database of Form 990s, which is searchable for free and without pre-registration.


Beyond these large searchable databases, many individual grant makers now post their three most recent filings of Form 990s or Form 990-PFs on their websites.


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