Stories From the Frontier: Breakthroughs, Challenges, and Recommendations from the First Five Years of Open 990 Data

Report by Jeff Williams
April 5, 2022

Community Data & Research Lab at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy   (Grand Rapids)

Making 990 data searchable and available for free to the public has revolutionized nonprofit information and scholarship by massively reducing costs and increasing efficiency. Researchers, nonprofits, government regulators, and journalists are using previously inaccessible data to further transparency, educate donors, advance knowledge, and fuel innovation. The report also provides a list of tools and resources for accessing 990 data.

Despite the promise of open data, barriers to access, usability, and timeliness remain.  The report includes recommendations for how the IRS, other federal agencies, and data providers can ensure that open 990 data is maximally useful.  An example of ongoing efforts to advance the report’s recommendations is this recent letter to senior IRS officials signed by Independent Sector, Candid, Charity Navigator, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, scholars, and others aligned with the report’s vision of a more data-informed future.