I'm not going to name specifics as to not identify the non profit or where I live, but about five years ago an Architect and his wife from my town announced there going to be building a large tourist attraction that would generate millions for our local economy. The only catch is that the structure is going to cost 20 million dollars. I was immediately skeptical of this when I heard about it due to the high price of the project, but also because the people attempting to build this structure do not have a history with building this type of attraction, and the entire board of this project is just normal everyday citizens. There plan was to raise the 20 million dollars in five years. For the past few years I did not think much about them, aside from the occasional local newspaper article that gave vague updates every once a while. However recently I decided to check into their progress, and in the past five years it does not seem like they have bought any property, and they have certainly not broken ground on the cite. They have tons of concept art, but they do not seem to be anywhere near where they envisioned being five years ago. I knew they were a 501c3 so I decided to look into their form 990 to get an understanding of their financials.
This is where things get interesting. At first I could not find the non-profit under the name that they are publicly going by. I finally found it under a different, but sort of similar, name by just searching through a list of non-profits in my town. What I found is that for the past five years they have form 990-n instead of the traditional 990, meaning that their annual revenue is less than $50,000. I checked and donations certainly count as revenue, so I am assuming that they have for the past five years been receiving less than $50,000, which would mean they are nowhere close to their $20 million goal. I'm concerned because a lot of churches, and their congregations are donating to this organization and I am sure those individuals could find a much better use of their money. Furthermore this organization, maintains a strong public appearance, and you would never be able to tell from their social media or their presentations that they are so far away from their goal.
I feel like the reality is that this is a poorly run organization that will never be able to accomplish this task, but I have no non-profit experience. I am wondering if it is possible that they are able to receive donations but somehow do not have to report that in the 990 form, or maybe there is something else going financially on that I would not know about, but would allow them to receive major donations. Does this sound fishy to anyone else? If so what should or could I do about it? I have considered taking this information to a local reporter, but I am not sure if anything would actually come out of that.
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