Open records: Financials of Texas charities

Open records: Financials of Texas charities


Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is unveiling a new Web site where you can soon look up the “990” tax forms of nonprofit organizations in Texas.

The 990 is a good starting point when you want to know more about a tax-exempt charity and what it does with its money. You can find out how much the organization spends on fundraising, or what it pays its top officials. Journalism students at private schools can use the 990 to get financial information about their university.

Former San Antonio Express-News columnist Roddy Stinson looked at 990 tax forms of a local Head Start provider, Parent/Child Inc. The group is a nonprofit organization that receives millions of dollars every year from the federal government to provide early education for poor children.

Stinson found out that the taxpayer funded, nonprofit organization paid its top executive $200,000. His first of many columns about the topic was: “Mamas, let your babies grow up to be Head Start executives.”

Another good Web site for information about nonprofits is Guidestar. You can sign up to Guidestar for free and look up three year’s worth of 990s. Examining the tax forms for multiple years, and not just one year, is a good way to find patterns, such as whether revenues are going down.

Guidestar is run by — you guessed it — a nonprofit.