A Lot of People Looking Over My Shoulder
Sharetrails.org/BRC is governed first of all by corporate documents filed in Idaho. As a non-profit corporation, IRS regulations also define who we are and what we may do as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity…
by Barbara Larsen
What’s a non-profit specialist? And why does Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon need one?
Sharetrails.org/BRC is governed first of all by corporate documents filed in Idaho. As a non-profit corporation, IRS regulations also define who we are and what we may do as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity.
Each year we file IRS 990 information form with the IRS. I oversee all bookkeeping entries during the year and compile the numbers into a draft 990 to send to our accountant who submits the 990 to the IRS. In addition, the accountant performs an audit of my books to be sure there are no irregularities in our accounting for income and expenses. After completion, the 990 is posted on our website for public inspection. The audit is submitted to the Board of Directors for their oversight and filed permanently in the office along with the 990.
But I’m not done yet. Because Sharetrails.org/BlueRibbon solicits donations from our members in all fifty states, we come under the charity laws in forty individual states (10 states don’t have charity regulations). Each one asks us to submit annual forms so they can evaluate our compliance with their state regulations. That’s a lot of people looking over my shoulder.
The records we keep of donations and expenses have to be explained to all of these agencies – beginning with the IRS – every year. We must show that the donations we ask from our supporters are used to further our mission and not used to enrich anyone on our board or staff.
I began as Sharetrails.org/BRC’s bookkeeper in 2004. In 2007 the job expanded to include the state charity reporting, and the Non-Profit Specialist’s job split from basic bookkeeping in 2013. During the year, my job is now to oversee the bookkeeper, to prepare the draft of the 990 for the accountant, file the forty state charity renewals on time, track changes in the IRS and states’ laws that relate to non-profits, and advise the Executive Director and Board of Directors when questions arise regarding new ways to raise funds or whether a proposed expenditure meets the IRS guidelines. I also prepare the budget for the upcoming year using guidelines from the Board of Directors and Executive Director.
Because Sharetrails.org/BRC is committed to transparency, I have posted several information pages on our website regarding our state charity compliance and annual reports. I also submit our corporate information to charity watchdog websites like BoardSource, where the public may also review our performance and mission.
If you want to see what our 990 looks like, it’s posted on the new website. To check if we are registered as a charity in your state, log on to your state government’s portal and search for “charities” in either the Secretary of State’s office or the Attorney General’s office. These state websites also have a great deal of information on how to protect yourself against fraudulent charities. For more information on tax-exempt organizations, log on to the IRS website at www.irs.gov/eo.
The IRS and state regulations we follow are designed to make sure your donations are used wisely. I have a lot of people looking over my shoulder to make sure that happens.