How Nonprofits Can Use Form 990 as a Marketing Advantage

by: Smith and Howard

June 14, 2016

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To many nonprofit organizations the Form 990 is simply a requirement, a must do. However, this public form can serve as a tool to help your organization increase brand awareness throughout the community. There are many sections in the Form 990 that can help your marketing team and organization generate positive perceptions, which could ultimately lead to more donations.

Are You Optimizing Your Form 990?

Whether you have asked for an extension for filing your 2015 Form 990 or are looking ahead to next year, make sure you are completing the form to your nonprofit’s best advantage. Most organizations do not view tax forms as a marketing tool. But when it comes to Form 990, take full advantage of an opportunity to put your nonprofit in the best possible light in front of the audiences you wish to attract.

Here is why Form 990 is different—in addition to the financial data you are asked to complete, there are opportunities to provide supplemental information in a narrative format. Keep in mind that Form 990 is available to the public. This is an outstanding opportunity to highlight your organization’s achievements and attract support.

Consider your audience

Potential donors have free access to your Form 990 through widely accessible online databases, such as GuideStar. As you prepare your form, consider donors, clients, customers, public policy officials, the media and audience your organization serves. Your mission is on the front page of part 1, line 1. What do you want them to know about your nonprofit?

Be consistent

Consistency is key. Make sure the information and messages contained on your form run parallel with the rest of your material, such as brochures, your website, fundraising materials and annual report. You want to come across as a nonprofit with a strong brand message.

Stand out from the crowd

In Part III, the Statement of Program Service Accomplishmentsprovides a tremendous opportunity to tell your story. Explain how you achieve your mission and provide a summary of your accomplishments over the past tax year. This is where you have an opportunity to provide specifics about how you ran a program or exceeded expectations. This is the place to demonstrate how your organization stands out from the others.

Schedule O provides space for additional narratives related to governance policies and how an organization protects and uses its charitable assets.  Use this space to provide detail about how your organization is governed that differentiates your organization in the community.

Go Long!

If your nonprofit is either not required to file Form 990, or is only required to file a Form 990-N or the shorter Form 990-EZ, you can still voluntarily complete the full Form 990. Small or exempt organizations may do so to attract donors by demonstrating transparency. Grant seekers may file Form 990 because their grantors or potential grantors may require it.  

If your nonprofit needs assistance with Form 990 filing or any other nonprofit matter, please contact Sabre Linahan, CPA, or any member of our nonprofit accounting services team at  404-874-6244, or simply fill out our form below. 

How can we help?

If you have any questions and would like to connect with a team member please call 404-874-6244 or contact an advisor below.