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IRS Form 990 Isn't the Whole Story

January 1999

If a Form 990 image is available for your selected charity, you will see a "Documents" option on the right side of the charity's GuideStar Report. We hope that users of the GuideStar Web site recognize that although Form 990 is an excellent source of financial data, it is merely that.

Although Forms 990 can provide a snapshot of the financial health and expenditures of an organization at a specific time, they are virtually useless in comparing one organization to another unless the organizations are of similar size, age, geography, and field of activity. Further, they tell us nothing about the ultimate or relative effectiveness of an organization with respect to meeting its objectives. This is the true bottom line of charity. Form 990 data are most useful for examining the evolving health and financial practices of an organization over a period of time.

Rather, we encourage users of GuideStar information to focus upon the GuideStar Report for each organization. These pages offer descriptive information to provide a more complete picture of the accomplishments, plans, values, and needs of each organization.

An examination of financial data together with other information available at GuideStar should give donors confidence that the huge majority of their charitable contributions are well invested.