Recommendations on making informed donations
In light of recent allegations of other food nonprofits committing fraud, I want to share my recommendations on how to be an informed donor, and also share some specifics about Every Meal’s governance and operations.
Most importantly, I encourage all donors to utilize the Minnesota Attorney General’s office as a resource as they have great information about nonprofits (https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Charity/Donors.asp).
Recommendations for Researching Nonprofits:
- Minnesota Attorney General: Ensure the nonprofit is registered with the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and is currently in good standing. You can contact the AG’s office to have them send you copies of an organization’s annual filing with the state, which includes audited financial documents. These audited financial documents should have been reviewed by an independent audit firm. Good standing with the AG’s office is a must.
- 990 (annual filing with the IRS): Look at a nonprofit’s 990, which is their annual filing with the IRS. The 990 can typically be found on Guidestar.org or in the AG’s annual filing. There is a ton of information on the 990 and it is several pages long. Good standing with the IRS is a must.
- Charities Review Council: In Minnesota we have an organization, Charities Review Council, which provides an accreditation for organizations that go through their review process. (More at https://smartgivers.org/nonprofits/the-accountability-standards.) Every three years, nonprofits submit new information for their review. Charities Review Council is an optional process nonprofits can choose to go through and is not a must. Typically, it is in general a sign the organization has good governance in place.
A nonprofit should provide access to their audited financials and the 990 very freely, ideally easily available on their website. These should be up to date, though there is almost always a 3-9 month delay as the audit must be completed after the fiscal year ends. Other places you can look for information are Charity Navigator, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, the nonprofit’s Annual Report, or contact the nonprofit directly.
There is certainly a lot more information you can find out about a nonprofit, but the above is a solid place to start.
Every Meal’s Governance and Operations:
- Every Meal is a member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and in good standing with the IRS and the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.
- Every Meal has our Charities Review Council accreditation and recently completed the process to renew (done every three years). This process includes a review of Every Meal in the following areas: Public Disclosure, Governance (processes, practices, DEI, and policies), Financial Activity, and Fundraising. You can read more about their Accountability Standards here.
- Every Meal has an independent firm complete an audit of the organization’s finances every year. The firm is selected by the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors and is currently Abdo, which has a strong non-profit department. Neither I nor the Board Treasurer are allowed to be on the audit committee per our bylaws.
- Every Meal has 14 board members with various backgrounds including finance, nonprofit, education, business, marketing, and leadership. They are listed here.
- Every Meal has excellent separation of duties within the organization (people opening the mail aren’t also depositing checks, paying bills, approving payments, etc.) Every month, financials and bank statements are routed from the Director of Finance through the Vice President, me (as President), and the Treasurer of the Board for review and investigation of any variances from budget/norms. The full board of directors reviews financials at every board meeting and any questions are answered in a timely fashion.
- One of the most important things to look for is transparency – how easy is it to find the Audited Financials, 990, and Annual Report. How timely/current those documents are and the consistency of the data in those reports. You can find all of Every Meal’s financial information available here.
When an organization abuses the trust the community has in it, it is understandable and wise that we all take another look at the organizations we are supporting. The trust the community has in Every Meal is incredibly important and our transparency and accountability is paramount to respecting and honoring that trust.
If you have any questions about Every Meal and our governance or operations, please do not hesitate to reach out.
President and Founder