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    The Lingering Effects of the Pandemic on Nonprofit Performance Data

    How we're addressing the IRS processing delays of Form 990.

    Charity Navigator is excited and proud to bring our users a new website and single rating system to the world for the 2022 Giving Season. This has been a multi-year process during a tumultuous couple of years for the world. This unique, holistic evaluation framework illuminates the overall health and performance of an organization through four key areas, or ‘beacons,’ helping donors understand if a charity has clarity of purpose: Leadership & Adaptability; they are transparent and fiscally capable through Accountability & Finance; who are they and how do they engage with their constituents, through Culture & Community; and finally what have they accomplished, through Impact & Results.


    Amongst the many challenges of bringing together a 20-year-old system with this new innovative approach was data collection from the various sources required to produce a complete rating. Disruptions caused by the pandemic have altered what charities could get done and their ability to report on performance. Significant delays at the IRS in processing and making the Forms 990 available to the public exacerbated our ability to launch our new system with more current information. This data gap appears in the ratings in the Accountability & Finance beacon. The data/crisis catch-22: How the pandemic created a social sector data gap describes the IRS delays in greater detail.  


    Both donors and the charities they support rely on this information to be current. To address data timeliness, we have taken a multi-tiered approach which includes:

    • Building out functionality in our Nonprofit Portal, allowing charities to upload their Forms 990 to us directly. Note: If your favorite charity has an old 990 showing on their rating, please point them to this solution.

    • Being active and contributing members of the Nonprofit Open Data Collective, which seeks to ensure that the Forms 990 continue to be published in a timely and meaningful manner. 

    • Advocating directly with the IRS and other parts of government at multiple levels to see if we could remedy the situation 

    • Contracting with partner organizations in the sector to acquire more recent data when available and assist in data processing when needed. 

    • Exploring the feasibility of a long-term solution which would enable us, and others, to receive the IRS Forms 990 at time of filing by individual charities and nonprofits. 


    With all this being said, we regret delays in receiving the IRS Forms 990, and we continue to focus on finding more effective ways to collect, process, and publish updates to the Accountability & Finance area of our ratings. The IRS Forms 990 have been a foundational element of Charity Navigator’s ratings for the past 20 years, so ensuring timely and consistent updates to these files is essential.


    Published date: November 2, 2022