The Right Question Institute, Inc.

A Catalyst for Microdemocracy

Somerville, MA   |
GuideStar Charity Check

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

EIN: 04-3099027


The mission of The Right Question Institute (RQI) is to develop simple and powerful educational methods that all people in low and moderate-income communities can use to advocate for themselves, navigate complex systems and participate in decision-making processes that affect them. RQI makes its methods easily available to staffs of organizations, programs and agencies working in low and moderate-income communities all over the country. When they teach RQI's methods to the people with whom they work, they are building new capacity for effective individual action, for strengthening communities and for making democracy work better

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Betsy Smith

Main address

P.O. Box 440431

Somerville, MA 02144 USA

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Formerly known as

Right Question Project



Subject area info

Educational management

Voter education and registration

Community and economic development

Human rights

Population served info

Ethnic and racial groups

Low-income people



NTEE code info

Community Improvement, Capacity Building N.E.C. (S99)

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

Management & Technical Assistance (B02)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

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

Tax forms


Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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

Teaching + Learning (Education)

We learn with and from educators to create free resources and powerful learning experiences so that all learners have access to a fundamental skill for thinking and learning: question formulation. We also support faculty members and researchers at a range of institutions to foster question formulation in their own research and with students inside and outside the classroom.

Population(s) Served

We supply training and resources to legal professionals who serve low-income clients — fostering stronger partnerships with clients and building their ability to navigate the legal system and advocate for themselves in other settings.

Population(s) Served

We provide free resources and consulting to direct service organizations in low-income communities — sharing a strategy that allows individuals to see the value and urgency in voting.

Population(s) Served
Low-income people
Low-income people

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome


The Right Question Institute, Inc.
Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30
done  Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant. info

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 15.33 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 17.1 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 14% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of The Right Question Institute, Inc.’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

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Business model indicators

Profitability info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $622,895 -$167,876 $183,011 $95,790 $1,881,474
As % of expenses 66.8% -16.3% 14.4% 7.5% 140.3%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $622,475 -$172,547 $175,310 $88,429 $1,874,113
As % of expenses 66.7% -16.7% 13.7% 6.9% 139.0%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $1,251,359 $758,183 $1,405,178 $1,368,260 $3,228,423
Total revenue, % change over prior year 111.2% -39.4% 85.3% -2.6% 136.0%
Program services revenue 19.1% 40.8% 29.0% 33.4% 14.9%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.9% 2.9% 0.8% 0.1% 0.1%
Government grants 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.7% 0.0%
All other grants and contributions 79.6% 55.9% 70.0% 55.6% 85.0%
Other revenue 0.4% 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.0%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $932,153 $1,028,549 $1,272,167 $1,273,060 $1,341,051
Total expenses, % change over prior year 34.2% 10.3% 23.7% 0.1% 5.3%
Personnel 54.0% 72.3% 68.5% 70.8% 78.8%
Professional fees 30.0% 17.7% 22.0% 25.0% 16.0%
Occupancy 2.1% 2.0% 2.6% 1.2% 1.0%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.3% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
All other expenses 13.9% 7.9% 6.9% 2.7% 4.2%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total expenses (after depreciation) $932,573 $1,033,220 $1,279,868 $1,280,421 $1,348,412
One month of savings $77,679 $85,712 $106,014 $106,088 $111,754
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $150,000 $0
Fixed asset additions $1,702 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $1,011,954 $1,118,932 $1,385,882 $1,536,509 $1,460,166

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Months of cash 17.2 14.8 16.7 14.4 30.6
Months of cash and investments 17.2 14.8 16.7 14.4 30.6
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 19.5 15.7 14.4 15.2 31.2
Balance sheet composition info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cash $1,337,452 $1,269,586 $1,767,854 $1,529,638 $3,423,471
Investments $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Receivables $380,345 $149,716 $97,802 $164,655 $143,764
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $5,598 $5,598 $0 $0 $0
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 72.5% 79.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 4.6% 4.8% 19.9% 6.6% 2.8%
Unrestricted net assets $1,519,565 $1,347,018 $1,522,328 $1,610,757 $3,484,870
Temporarily restricted net assets $150,400 $50,000 N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $150,400 $50,000 $0 $0 $0
Total net assets $1,669,965 $1,397,018 $1,522,328 $1,610,757 $3,484,870

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Material data errors No No No No No


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

Letter of Determination is not available for this organization
Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Betsy Smith

Betsy joined the Right Question Institute in 2021, bringing more than 20 years of experience as a nonprofit executive. She previously led EqualityMaine — helping drive successful statewide campaigns for marriage equality — and Citizens for Participation in Political Action in Boston. As an independent consultant, she helped develop capacity building strategies for multiple nonprofit organizations. An educator by training, Betsy spent 11 years as a middle and high school mathematics teacher. She earned her master’s degree in education from Colorado State University.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Highest paid employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of highest paid employee data for this organization

The Right Question Institute, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 02/01/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Mary Wendell

McNamara Buck

David A. Guberman

Diane Englander

Shonak Patel

John Campbell

Stephen Quatrano

John Esterle

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    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? Not applicable
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Not applicable
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 8/24/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/24/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
There are no contractors recorded for this organization.

Professional fundraisers

Fiscal year ending

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 Schedule G

Solicitation activities
Gross receipts from fundraising
Retained by organization
Paid to fundraiser