News and analysis
August 09, 2016

How to Find a Charity's Compensation

Use this guide as a quick reference to find important information on nonprofit groups from the forms they’re required to file with the Internal Revenue Service.

Most federally tax-exempt groups must complete a 990, a 990-EZ, or a 990-N. Churches and state organizations are exempt. (Foundations must file a 990-PF.)

This guide shows where to find information in the 990, the 990-EZ, and any attached schedules. The 990-EZ is mentioned only where it covers a particular topic.

(The 990-N, filed by tiny groups, is essentially an e-postcard with only the most basic information.)

I want to find out …

… how much a charity pays in salaries, other compensation, and benefits.

    For the total, go to Form 990, Part I, Line 15.

    For a breakdown of these expenses, go to Part IX, Lines 5-10.

    On Form 990-EZ, the total amount is at Part I, Line 12.

… how the IRS defines “key employee.” 

    The 990 instructions include a three-part test to determine if someone is a key employee. You can find that in “Section A. Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees.”

    For purposes of the 990-EZ, a key employee is “any person having responsibilities or powers similar to those of officers, directors, or trustees. The term includes the chief management and administrative officials of an organization (such as an executive director or chancellor). A chief financial officer and the officer in charge of the administration or program operations are both key employees if they have the authority to control the organization's activities, its finances, or both.” 

… how the IRS defines officer, director, and trustee.

    Go to the 990 instructions under “Section A. Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees.

    For the 990-EZ, go to the instructions, “Part IV. List of Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees.”

… how much a charity pays its trustees.

    Go to Form 990, Part VII, Section A, which includes the names of current officers, directors, and trustees and the amount paid, if any.

    On Form 990-EZ, that information is in Part IV.

… how much a charity pays its key employees.

    Go to Form 990, Part VII, Section A, which also includes officers, directors, and trustees as well as the five highest-paid employees who made more than $100,000 of reportable compensation from the nonprofit and related organizations.

    Also included here is a list of former officers, key employees, and highest-compensated employees who made more than $100,000 and former directors or trustees who made more than $10,000 of reportable compensation from the nonprofit and related organizations.

From a Task Force for Global Health’s IRS Form 990

    On Form 990-EZ, information about compensation for key employees is in Part IV.

    Also on Form 990-EZ, people making more than $100,000 who are not officers, directors, trustees, or key employees are listed in Part VI, Line 50.

… how many hours trustees and employees averaged per week.

    Go to Form 990, Part VII, Section A, Column B to find out average hours worked for officers, directors, trustees, and the five best-paid employees.

    On the 990-EZ, that information is in Parts IV and VI.

… how many employees at a charity made more than $100,000 of reportable compensation from the organization.

    Go to Form 990, Part VII, Section A, Line 2.

    On Form 990-EZ, go to Part VI, Lines 50a and 50f.

… how compensation for key employees was determined.

    Go to Form 990, Part VI, Section B, Lines 15, 15a, and 15b.

    To find out what process was used to decide the CEO’s or executive director’s pay — a compensation committee, compensation survey, consulting similar organizations’ Form 990s, etc. — go to Schedule J, Part I, Line 3.

From a Feeding America’s IRS Form 990

    From Feeding America’s 2014 IRS Form 990

    If a related organization established the CEO’s or executive director’s compensation, that is explained in Part III. 

... how much a charity paid independent contractors.

    Go to Form 990, Part VII, Section B, which lists how much was paid to the five highest-compensated independent contractors who received more than $100,000 from the organization.

From a United Way Worldwide’s IRS Form 990

    On the 990-EZ, go to Part VI, Line 51. 

… how much a charity paid outside fundraisers 

    Go to Form 990, Part IX, Line 11e. If an outside fundraiser was paid for both services and for materials such as postage or paper, this line may include all of those costs. If the organization splits the costs, this line will include only the amount for services rendered, and postage and other supplies will be included in Part IX, the Statement of Functional Expenses.

    Note: Compensation information is always reported for the calendar year that includes the December 31 covered by the filing organization’s fiscal year. If a group’s fiscal year is July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, it includes December 31, 2015, and compensation information will be for calendar year 2015.

Additional Information

See the resource section to find out where you can download charities’ tax forms and instructions, data on big grants and donations, and other information.

Organizations are required to file their 990s by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of their fiscal year — so for groups that follow the calendar year, May 15. But nonprofits can get an automatic 90-day extension and may request a second one. So it’s common for a form due on May 15 not to be filed until mid-November. If a charity has filed its forms but they’re not yet available on a database like GuideStar or ProPublica, you may be able to get a copy sooner by contacting the nonprofit directly.

Most federally tax-exempt organizations must complete a 990 as a condition of their tax status. Churches and state organizations are exempt. 

Nonprofits that have gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000 may file a Form 990-EZ, which requires less information than the full 990. Those that normally bring in less than $50,000 can file a 990-N e-postcard, which shows only very basic information, including the name and address of the group and the principle officer and confirmation of its gross receipts.

The Chronicle’s 990 guides were compiled by Alex Daniels, Marilyn Dickey, Joshua Hatch, Megan O’Neil, Timothy Sandoval, and Eden Stiffman, with assistance from Lori Budnick, a CPA and partner at BlumShapiro, and Brian Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.