Skip to Main Content
University of Phoenix logo
University Library

Research a Nonprofit Organization

What is a nonprofit organization?

A nonprofit organization, also called an NPO, is an organization created for a purpose other than generating a profit. No part of the organization's income is distributed to its members, directors, or officers. An NPO is exempt from federal taxes. Examples of common NPOs include religious, charitable, scientific, public safety, literary, and educational organizations.

To see more differences between for-profit and nonprofit organizations, check out Nonprofit vs For Profit Organizations.

Nonprofit Versus Not-For-Profit

There is a difference! A not-for-profit organization (NFPO) is not required to operate for the benefit of the public good, unlike a nonprofit. Examples of NFPOs include social advocacy groups, trade organizations, and recreational clubs.

How do I research a nonprofit organization?

Finding information about nonprofit organizations can take time and creativity. The type of information you need may drive where you look. We recommend starting at the top of the list and working your way down, as we've ordered this list to reflect where you're most likely to find information. But the type of information you need may be in any option listed, so don't give up if you don't find it right away.

Start with the organization

  • Organization website
    Look for links called About Us,Our Organization, Press Releases, Annual Reports, Financial Reports, Policy Positions, or Mission. Many times, these links can be found at the bottom of the homepage. Note names of the organization's leadership team or board members and research them in the media. Look for online brochures, newsletters, bios, resumes of leaders, and other documents that give insight into the nonprofit.
  • Organization social media
    Review the organization's social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram. Who is their audience? What events are they hosting and how are they fundraising? This information can give insight into the organization's strategy, impact, and message.

Search the library

You may be able to find a company report or profile for some of the larger nonprofit organizations.

Search the news

You can often find the most current information on your nonprofit in local news, business journals, and trade publications. You'll want to check for press releases, blogs, and news items. Keep in mind anything found in a press release or organization blog will most likely feature the nonprofit in a positive light.

In the resources listed, try these search queries. You'll want to replace united way with the name of your organization.

"united way" AND ("financial information" OR financing) 

"united way" AND (strategy OR strategic plan) 

"united way" AND fundrais*

Find their Form 990

Form 990 is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form that all nonprofits must file each year. It allows the IRS to gather information about tax-exempt organizations. Keep in mind, organizations with less than $200,000 in revenue or less than $500,000 in assets are exempt, as are some political and religious organizations.

Search nonprofit directories on the internet

Nonprofit directories typically provide good overviews of nonprofit organizations. While they may not always contain the detailed information you're looking for, they can provide valuable insight into the organization and help uncover other research options or places to look.

Google the organization

While you might have to dig a bit more in a Google search, you can sometimes find documents that you haven't come across in any other sources.

Search for your organization and limit the file type to Adobe Acrobat PDF. Many financial reports, annual reports, grant applications, fact sheets, and program reviews will be in this format.

Ask Us!

Having trouble finding information on your nonprofit organization? Ask Us! Our team of librarians is here to help you if you’re stuck or need help getting started.