Public, Society Benefit

Better Government Association, Inc.

Illinois' Nonpartisan Full-Service Watchdog

aka The BGA

Chicago, IL


The Better Government Association is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization and civic advocate working for transparency, efficiency and accountability in government across Illinois. The BGA uncovers waste and wrongdoing in government, holds elected officials accountable, litigates for open records and meetings, advocates for good government and empowers citizens to engage and act.

Ruling Year


President & CEO

Mr. David Greising

Main Address

223 West Jackson Boulevard Suite 300

Chicago, IL 60606 USA


government reform, public education, citizen, activism, citizen, taxpayer, watchdog, investigate, government, corruption, fraud, waste, taxes, spending, ethics, accountability, criminal justice





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

Voter Education/Registration (R40)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015.
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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

What We Do: The BGA uncovers waste and wrongdoing in government, holds elected officials accountable, litigates for open records and meetings, advocates for good government and empowers citizens to engage and act.

How We Operate: The BGA's Investigations team and Policy team operate autonomously, with internal policy and practices that insure the separation of journalism and advocacy.

The Investigations team produces objective, high-impact reporting that enlightens readers and leads to better government in Chicago and Illinois.

The Policy and Civic Engagement teams work in a non-partisan manner to advance good government in Illinois, taking action at times in response to BGA investigations.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Investigation Unit

Policy Unit

Civic Engagement Program

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

The BGA's watchdog work accomplishes the following:
Develops an enlightened and informed public;
Produces meaningful participation in government;
Reduces government waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency; and
Improves democracy by encouraging government transparency, accountability and honesty.

We achieve our objectives through investigative journalism, legal action, policy advocacy and civic engagement programming. Our watchdog work increases the public's understanding of what is going on in state and local government; trains Illinoisans to access public information and understand their rights to participate fully in civic activities; and facilitates advocacy campaigns to advance government reform.

1) Investigative Unit: Functioning as the heart of the BGA, the Investigative Unit includes a team of eight investigators and several freelance journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chuck Neubauer. The team continuously investigates allegations of misconduct, corruption, fraud and mismanagement in Illinois. Since 2009, we've published 602 stories, news investigations and follow-up stories on our own and in collaboration with dozens of news operations around the state. So far our work has prompted 156 reforms and results across the state of Illinois, saving taxpayers an estimated $50 million.

Over the past several years, the BGA has developed a high profile in the local media landscape. We collaborate with more than 25 media outlets and publish regular columns and investigations in newspapers. The BGA also makes regular television appearances, radio interviews and contributions to online media and reform sites. Our Investigative Team works closely with the following major media partners: Chicago Sun-Times, WBBM Newsradio, WMAY NewsTalk 970, The State Journal-Register, ABC7, FOX Chicago, CBS2 Chicago, NBC5 Chicago and WTTW.

Our investigative work covers a range of issues including pension and salaries, taxes and spending, ethics and accountability, criminal justice, education, campaign finance, transportation, environment and health. Since 2009, the BGA has been honored with 44 awards including sixteen Lisagor Awards, two Edward R. Murrow Awards and two Emmy Awards.

The BGA believes open and transparent government is vital to a healthy democracy. That's why we take legal action to ensure our team of journalists gets the public documents they need to investigate an issue. In the past four years, the BGA has filed thousands of FOIA requests and taken 56 legal actions.

2) Policy Unit: The BGA's Policy Unit monitors and analyzes policy proposals and researches best practices to inform and influence local and state decision making on public policies affecting the delivery of responsible and effective government. The Unit organizes and facilitates meetings with legislators, civic leaders and other stakeholders and regularly works in partnership with other organizations to advocate for good government and to inform and engage the public.

3) Civic Engagement Program: The BGA's Civic Engagement Program deepens the discourse about civic issues and provides the public with a way to express needs and concerns to government officials. The Program helps constituents raise their voices to express informed opinions and exert influence regarding government-related services and decisions. We train individuals to obtain the facts, ask questions and hold public officials accountable. Since 2009 we've engaged with more than 16,500 people through Idea Forums, Watchdog Trainings & FOIA Clinics and Candid Conversations with prominent public figures.

Under the passionate and robust leadership of the BGA's former President and CEO, Andy Shaw, and a dedicated Board of Directors, extraordinary progress has been made to develop and implement effective watchdog work. In the past decade, the BGA has experienced a tremendous revitalization, expanding from two to more than twenty employees and growing the budget from $300,000 to $3.5 million. We've published 665 investigations, prompted 194 reforms and results, engaged with more than 16,500 people and saved taxpayers an estimated $50 million.

The BGA's program management is comprised of a President and CEO, a Director of Investigations and a Director of Digital Strategy. Eight full-time investigators and several freelance reporters conduct investigations and four full-time policy staff and freelance consultants execute policy and advocacy strategies as well as civic engagement efforts.

The BGA is a formidable organization because we have worked for integrity, transparency and accountability in state and local government since 1923. In 2009, we expanded our mission to go beyond investigative journalism to include a vision for advocacy and civic engagement. Now, we're not only exposing problems in government but we're proposing solutions. We're pleased to say we are the only full-service watchdog organization in Illinois investigating state and local government issues; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform. Our strength also lies in the dozens of partnerships with media, policy advocacy organizations and community groups across the state of Illinois.

The BGA measures its progress and effectiveness through the number of investigations published, results and reforms prompted; policy initiatives passed; and people engaged. Here's a look at the organization-wide numbers we've tracked since 2009:

-- 665 investigations with 25 media partners throughout the state
-- 45 fact-checks
-- 194 reforms and results
-- $50 million in taxpayer savings
-- 16,538 people informed and engaged at BGA events
-- 11,987 calls/emails to lawmakers prompted
-- 56 legal actions
-- 44 journalism awards

We use these measurements to track our progress and compare our results year to year.

The BGA's watchdog work is having an impact. We're seeing real reform as a direct result of our efforts. Step by step, government in Illinois is improving and we're proud to be part of the process.

Please visit to check out our latest investigative and policy accomplishments.

External Reviews


Better Government Association, Inc.

Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Need more info on this nonprofit?

Need more info on this nonprofit?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to view a Sample Report.


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?