[…THIS PAGE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS and may continue to be split into smaller segments]]
VERY impromptu, but over the years, I’ve been amazed how many individuals (I’m talking noncustodial mothers) are following and adamant followers and supporters of organizations they have never read the tax returns of. I find tax returns very informative!
One reason this blog’s analysis IS so uncommon is that I check these points, compare what the tax returns and grants say — with what the corporations are saying about themselves. What an eyeopener! This simple habit (practice) builds a sense of who is doing what in the fields affecting the courts… Of how some organizations copy each others’ Standard Operating Procedures to the point they are virtually cloning (jargon, focus, and practices).
One has to start somewhere. I have talked about the “CAFRs” (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports) as critical to understand how government sectors report their own operations and funding to each other, and that by advancing funds to the collective government sector, we are helping it invest “wherever” while continuing to bill us for “budget“. Now that this is out, they have begun to change the rules on how it’s reported, but it’s still important to look. That is perhaps a more consistent way of looking at things — however we all have to start somewhere and improve our understanding of how neighborhoods, governments, agencies, and NONPROFITS work. We need to get a grip on more sectors of society — or just go along for the ride, on one or more currents. (The ocean analogy does seem to fit, as to scope).
In swimming (or surfing, or boating), it’s not just enough to know the mechanics of swimming or surving, or boating. One has to get a sense of the nature of the ocean, in its various parts. Perhaps that analogy will work — as there is an ocean of programs, an ocean of government entitites, and an “ocean” of money trails and financial influences on us at all levels.
WHY IT MATTERS:
The United States (Inc.) happens to be organized under Corporation Code — because of taxes. Not thinking or learning about this makes absolutely no sense, yet I know I was not taught it in high school, OR college; during and after college (not to mention high school) I was already IN that profession’s workforce.
However, with the internet speeding things up, and after decades of asset transfers (from individuals to centralized government and its gatekeepers [[i.e., judges, the legal profession and the mental health profession, private and on public payroll], we all shoud think more coherently about these matters; make it at least part of our language when we talk, and chat, about things — especially politics, government, or even what’s in that newspaper, which in generally will discourage people from taking the time to LOOK THINGS UP.
Our kids need to know it, too.
But no one in my immediate association, and I’ve lived in different states, and have a lot of variety in my personal background and associates, ever really talked about this subject matter. We talked about professions, or families, or at times faith, or neighborhoods & neighborhood schools. We did not talk about non-profit versus for-profit, about the roles of foundations in government (even though the presence was everywhere), about forming corporations, about public versus private wealth, or systematically about the grants system as a whole.
So, look at Corporate Filings; at least be aware of them…!!
. . . .A corporation is a government-created structure for doing business, and is available only by statute. The structure has state-created advantages (shareholder limited liability, for instance) and disadvantages (taxation of corporate profits and shareholder dividends, for instance) as compared to other structures. Non-profit corporations have other statutory advantages (such as the ability to raise tax deductible money) and disadvantages (such as various compliance requirements and restrictions on political activity).
The corporate legal form remains today not simply an association of people but a pure creation of statute that, unlike associations of people, may or may not be permitted by law. Indeed, a corporation is not fundamentally different now than in 1819 when Chief Justice Marshall writing for the Court explained that a corporation, as a “mere creature of law . . possesses only those properties which the charter confers upon it. . . .” Corporations remain creatures of statute, subject to various government compliance requirements.
“What is a Corporation?” [Advantages}
•Raising funds through sale of stock. Corporations are entities that allow for easy capital raising activities. The sale of additional stock to investors is relatively easy and can be more cost effective than other types of entities. Corporations are often the preferred choice of entity in which to make an investment by venture capital funds and non-U.S. investors, and almost always is the form of entity used when a company pursues an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock.
[That can be public or private, etc.]
Looking at the corporation history is like an inside look behind all the glitz, glitter, and glamor of any organization.
There is always more than one point of view on any organization — not just “favorable” or “unfavorable” from the standpoint of subject matter. Looking up Corporate Registrations (etc.) is closer to the back-office of any corporation.
How many Advocacy Groups have Recommended Followers Look things Up? Including, themselves? But, you should. Always!!
To look at most of the blogs protesting problems in the family court — how many of these talk about the Corporation // Nonprofit point of view, at all? (show me some….). They have only recently begun to even talk about the grants (TAGGS.hhs.gov) involved because a few (relatively speaking) individual bloggers (I’m one, but not the first one) have made it our own, and understand the importance of this, took the time, and continued reporting year after year, despite temptation to burn out on it in the face of the advocacy groups who do NOT want to talk about this angle (being themselves nonprofits!)….
I would never have known this if someone else hadn’t prompted me to look it up and named an organization or two, and connected it with the money (i.e., the federal grants). That point of view began making “sense” of the crazy attitude towards the law itself, we were experiencing as parents whose children had been stolen (kidnapped), or as women who had been assaulted before the children were stolen and child support arrears eliminated or bargained down because of it.
No successful organization fails to have any operating principles and documents, and it only makes sense to read them. Most are required somehow, to communicate at least some level, with the US government, and with each other. All I do, then, is remember to look at those communications: tax returns, corporate records, charitable filings, grants where available, conference agenda, and whether they are taking funds under the name (or EIN#) they are actually filed with the IRS and/or with the state.
I don’t pretend that these lookups are thorough. Those are just rudimentary checkups — but they are for INDICATORS of who one is dealing with; and are they rich or poor, connected, or acting on their own (less than likely in the family law field), and most important — honest, or dishonest.
[…REMINDER — THIS PAGE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS]
Discovering where organizations (plural) stand as to their corporate filings should inform where we (where YOU) stand in relationship to them: advocate, ally, or independent. Whether you parrot or protest (or, ignore) the propaganda. If it’s “protest,” it’s already been demonstrated (I believe) that subject matter or value of content is irrelevant to some. However, honesty with public funds and tax matters, is another matter — and a public interest matter. It is better leverage.
My Pep Talk, Agenda, Reasoning. Or, just Scroll Down “WHERE TO LOOK” segment, followed by some Lists, Charts, and Examples
I don’t care which. I am looking for people who will also do these lookups, and network WITH ME and EACH OTHER about what’s found. And to say, again — self-education has to be lifelong, and as citizens (if that’s a status one enjoys and wants), one should at least understand the country of citizenship.
I was forced to face it only because of the experiences of leaving an abuser, and then being forced into ongoing dealings with the same individual through mediators, family support agencies, child support agencies, and in front of judge after judge, who had almost no interest in our case (or welfare) and clearly were on a volume-based and agenda-based program. But I didn’t know why, or what was holding it together.
What was holding it together was budget — and the trainers. The trainers were, as it turns out, heavily AFCC, and the budget, as it turned out, was in large part a grants system no one had ever even named
Certain very large, very high-profile advocacy groups are, on examination, mostly into PR, Media Campaigns, and “Technical Assistance (as opposed to REAL assistance) and Training,” which makes a bundle for the software corporations or anyone who gets in on this and has a trademarked downloadable curriculum). They have different habits — but it’s their tax returns, corporate filings, the grants they get, and how they interact with each other — which better describe the organization. The incorporate, tax (etc.) data put the the self-descriptions into a clearer light; that look adds another dimension, i.e., depth and history. It adds date and time, dollars and personnel (on the board), revenues to assets, and where the revenues are coming from.
Anyone who ONLY looks at the website self-descriptions and does no further homework is up for being hoodwinked. MAKE THE TIME!
Cross-Check your Sources: SOS to OAG to IRS list to their websites, and if needed, beyond.
Other times I would come here from TAGGS.hhs.gov to see if an organization actually existed with the (exact) same name as was entered into the database. Often names are changed, or two similar but not identical names are entered into the database (and both are recording $xxx,xxx grants year after year). I’ve even seen “DUNS#” changed by single-digits on that database: WHY, is the question. “by Accident” is not the answer….
One of the major lessons I learned looking up (see blog!) was to read the grants database, find out and look at who was getting what, and then look at similar grants in other locations. Get a context!
Another one was to, when dealing with a nonprofit, simply look it up! Look at its tax returns (national) if possible, go to the state Secretary of State and look up their corporate filings (for example, to findout if they did file, and if so, were a foreign or domestic (out of state or in-state) corporation — and if they were filing “honorably” or getting dissolved every other year. AND who filed, addresses, etc.
For example: What about when a corporation has been dissolved — for a while — but is still collecting funds on-line, and/or even getting federal grants (it happens!). No one tracking (or taxing) that money, right?
Also one finds out that many corporations trying to sound like government for the uninformed (for example, “Family and Child Services” type names) are actually just plain old corporations.
And much more. For example, where is all the money going?
To locate the sites (anyone interested enough to look can be interested enough to type in a search string; do your homework!) I sometimes just type in “(state name) Corporations Search” or “(state name) Charitable Organizations Search.” Often charities are under the state’s Office of Attorney General (i.e., Attorney Generals might prosecute fraudulent fund-raisers, or warn consumers, so they have these database), and generally (I DNK if always), Corporations are under the Secretary of State’s website. As these sites sometimes transition software, if I posted it one month, it might be a different site a few months (or a year) later. So learn to look for them! When in doubt, or serious about a particular organization, maybe go get certified copies of their actual documentation through a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request.
WHERE TO LOOK // WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
After some website or service provider informs you they’re a nonprofit; after you locating a grantee, self-labeled “nonprofit” or 501(c)3 (and taking donations, one is interested in, it’s time to look as a routine matter, at a few time-consuming, but relevant, things. This will be helpful if and when you then later go get their contract with the local county (or state, etc.) and learn how much was the financial haul.
- IS IT really a 501(c)3? If so, for how long and under what name?Its IRS Tax-exempt Designation from the IRS site (Link: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos//. (EOS is “Exempt Organizations Search.”) If you forget the link, just search for “IRS Exempt Organizations Search” and it’ll come up. Pick an option to search on — be sure to set the “results” page to a high number, specify what you can.I’m not that great at using it yet, but it works. This also gives you a handy-dandy EIN# and if done carefully, verifies (I believe), well, if it should be taking donations. Any bank account opened should have an EIN# with it, etc.
- ALSO UNDERSTAND WHO ISN’T GOING TO BE LISTED HERE BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE LISTED (explained on the site).~ ~ ~ ~ ~Who isn’t going to be listed comes simply under three categories: Churches “and certain affiliated”, Group-listings (subordinate to a main organization, in other words), Government Units including Indian Tribal Governments (as recognized by the IRS), and anyone whose take is less than $5,000. Please take a few moments to read the few short paragraphs of: Other Eligible Donees and understand (think for a moment) about just how much money this may represent, collectively and its impact on the economy.However, for legitimate nonprofits, who are listed, and have filed, then go to, for example:
- FoundationCenter.org (I often just type in “990finder” to pull it up. An app can even be put on your cell phone…) OR, different format,Or, I used to use the “NCCS” (National Center for Charitable Statistics)Put out by The Urban Institute. Different sites have different features. Currently I use the FoundationCenter one the most.
The pattern of their EIN# filings, and make a note of the EIN#. Which source — depends on how you like results to display. I often use: http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/ After finding results, one can search by columns. However, do note that this is a database, and its naming of organizations may not exactly match the org. (due to space, abbreviations, or inconsistency in that source), so it’s best to find the EIN# unless you are simply doing a generic lookup of similar-named organizations. I also like to use http://nccsdataweb.urban.org. There may be better sites available, obviously. We are talking here rudimentary lookups.
(For example, are they still filing?).
- Actually click on and LOOK at some tax returns! — this shows where money is coming from and going to, or it should, as well as who are the directors, and their highest paid employees, what are the programs they’re operating, and what kind of real estate, etc.
- Reading nonprofit tax returns in general, for people who have not previously done so give an overview of how nonprofits work, particularly how expenses are written off. INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEE: Gross pay – Taxes Withheld Up Front (mostly) = NET Pay – YOUR living expenses = any discretionary income (reserves). NONPROFIT CORP: GROSS revenues – Expenses (LOTS can be written off) = NET revenues (sometimes a loss). Cumulative Assets are noted.
- You can compare (page 1) Contributions to Program Service Revenues, see what they are actually doing (about page 2 usually), per the tax returns; who’s on the board (and if paid, what they are paid), Key High Paid Employees, and related organizations, etc. etc.
- State Corporation Filings(some states record better than others. California’s is lousy, other states give more detail. Several states are (as we speak) transitioning their old databases to a new one. Georgia, for example (and in the new one, they want a user log in). Pennsylvania’s is lousy. California’s, for the size of the state is absolutely lousy (inflexible database), but it’s still searchable.Some states have begun to charge for the privilege of even looking, which is a crying shame…(04/20/2013) Just found a site which has links to all states — it may be “close enough for jazz” to get you to the intended destination, and gives some other basic information & links, by state. While it’s probably not all current, it’s at least 50 states in one place and tells what you can search for, by state!LLRX, Inc. Research RoundUp: Business Filings Databases UpdatedBy Kathy Biehl, Published on December 5, 2009
Revised and Updated: January 17, 2005, March 15, 2006, August 25, 2007 and December 5, 2009.
- On a State (find which state by “Contact Us” forms, or if the main website tells you…. Or the IRS Select Exempt designation).
- Articles of incorporation, if possible.
- (sometimes on-line, or you can also request a FOIA if it’s time to do further follow-up).Some of its board members, street addresses, etc.
State Charitable Organization filings (in California, these show may interesting items)
If they have a lot of trademarked terms in the organization’s self-descriptions, they can be looked up (to see who they are registered to), go to “USPTO.gov” (US Patent and Trademark Office) and click on Trademark search, basic word search, which currently is HERE. For example, try a search (specify Field = Owner Name & Address) on “Saddleback Church” or “Warren, Rick.” (bottom: “Purpose-Driven”), click, and see what the actual services are, when it was filed, and who owns it. This is COMMERCE market niche…
All those lookups are timeconsuming, a pain-in-the-ass, AND education. It builds an awareness of WTF is going on with an organization.
Of course there are more places to look (I didn’t mention getting a FOIA of contracts for local county government, etc.), but these are a place to start.
Two places I use a lot to look for EIN# or browse organizations even by name or (the latter), county:
Google “990finder” or check http://nccsdatabweb.urban.org
Enjoy. Below here are detailed Examples and Sample lookups. As this blog is about family court matters, you can see which organization/s I’ve chosen for examples…
For Example (and what better example to choose than….)…
Organizationally, many are “like father, like son.” For example, the hallmark of AFCC, apart from their prolific and ongoing self-descriptions about helping families, interdisciplinary, innovations, holistic, and resolving disputes, (etc.), when it comes to incorporation profiles is, to skip states after incorporating (or just not incorporate), dodge taxes, etc., and in short, fail to remain faithful to State Corporation and Nonprofit Legislation themselves. Many of their members then also seem to be doing as well in the subsidiary organizations, and I continue to be amazed at the skill and speed with which this occurs.
Members of this particular nonprofit — or perhaps, given the various states of incorporation or “not registered” or simply, not showing up we’re about to find, I should say, “of this particular group of people in certain professional niches, including judgest and court-appointed attorneys, not to mention social workers, mediators, custody evaluators, and all that –being famously “interdisciplinary,” then form and/or join a whole bunch of nonprofits with different labels (which seem to be decided upon in conference, and go through periodic metamorphoses (sp?). For example, after mediation was made mandatory, then other terms were invented, discussed, started in practice, lobbied for and where possible, also made mandatory.
Yet when conferencing in public the membership tend to either mention all the LESS relevant ones in the agenda, or if they are really top of the heap (or desperately working to get there), THEN highlight their AFCC loyalties. Otherwise, while actually lobbying they fail to mention the ones they are most joined at the hip in — which tends to be, again in certain fields, the AFCC, which unifies the mental health and legal professions with the courts, and has since its start (intentionally). That is the purpose of AFCC and that is the purpose of “Conciliation Courts” which predated the forming of the “Conference of Conciliation Courts” which AFCC marks as its own beginning date (some corporate records, below).
Hence, I figure the public — to “simplify” communications and understanding who we are communicating or dealing with, should do their lookups UP FRONT and FIRST when an organization comes across one’s scope. This helps build an understanding of the flora and fauna of this field from a corporate/economic point of view.
NOTE: Post split into a second (subsidiary) page January 2014 — I chose to highlight “AFCC” as a group for “EXAMPLES”
LOOK IT UP EXAMPLES – AFCC,and the art & science of forming of Chameleon Corporations