Training – Investigating Nonprofit Organizations

Posted By David Wilhite

The more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the United States employs more than 10 percent of the U.S. workforce and contributes more than $900 billion to the economy. The sector offers ample opportunities for business journalists to dive into financial records and databases and find stories that can have a substantial impact on the organizations themselves, their beneficiaries, the communities in which they operate, and their regulatory environment.

This month’s training session features a panel of experts who will discuss what’s changed with investigating nonprofits organizations. They will discuss how to:

  • probe 501c3 organizations;
  • use IRS Form 990 and other documents to investigate nonprofits’ financial data;
  • access the Single Audit database (reports from nonprofits that receive large federal grants);
  • look for red flags; and
  • find examples of notable investigative business reports on nonprofits.

Monday, April 17
2 p.m. EST

Listen to the recording.

Instructions: On the day of the call, dial (512) 879-2134. When prompted enter the access code 846394#.

Questions: Callers may submit questions to the panelists at

Training Facilitator

Brant Houston is the Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the University of Illinois, where he teaches investigative and data journalism and oversees an online newsroom. He previously was executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a nonprofit group of 5,000 members, and before that an award-winning investigative reporter for 17 years. He is co-founder and chair of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, a network of more than 120 nonprofit newsrooms, and coauthor of The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook and author of Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide.



Suzanne Coffman is the editorial director of GuideStar USA Inc., an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies. She joined GuideStar in November 1999 just two weeks after the company first posted charities’ IRS Forms 990 on its website. Before joining GuideStar, Suzanne was an editor/writer in the publications department of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.




Andrea Fuller is an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York City. She specializes in computer-assisted reporting using spreadsheets, databases, and computer programming to collect and analyze data for stories. Before joining the WSJ in April 2014, Andrea worked at Gannett Digital, The Center for Public Integrity, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.




Cheryl Phillips is the Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University. She specializes in data journalism and investigative journalism that uses data. She is a founding member of the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab and a member of the California Civic Data Coalition, a collaboration among data journalists to open up California campaign finance data and make it more accessible.


SABEW - Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication,
Arizona State University

555 North Central Ave, Suite 406 E, Phoenix, AZ 85004-1248
Phone: (602)-496-7862


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