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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires all non-profit organizations, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) to file an annual report that is publicly available. These reports are meant to make transparent the workings of non-profit organizations. E.g., in 2010 the NRA had $244 million in expenses of which $52 million went to salaries and compensation, $8 million went to professional fund raisers, and $25,000 went to "LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING" in "Central America and the Caribbean" (the NRA also invested $4 million in the same "Central America and the Caribbean").

If you want to learn how to get form 990's, I'm using the NRA as an example, with all the "sausage making ugliness" I can find. Continue below the little orange squiggle. This is a "how to."

Getting copies of IRS form 990.

Non-profit organizations are supposed to supply this filing upon request. Reputable organizations often put their own form 990s on their web sites. I can find neither hide nor hair of the NRA's form 990 at .

So, you COULD request it directly from the NRA. Or you could go to a number of different sites which track non-profits and foundations. Many of these sites, e.g., Guidestar, will try to get you to purchase a membership, but you don't need to in order to see most recent 990's. The IRS filings are generally freely available. Now, membership does give you access to "premium" information, and if you do work with non-profits it might be worth it (I don't have a paid membership).

I might also recommend the Foundation Center's "990 Finder" at . You shouldn't need to register or anything.

For this specific example, you can get the latest freely available 990 for the NRA (2010) at the Internet Archive:

which is 56 pages long and 1.2 mb. It's chock full of salaries, expenditures, names, BS, mission statements, etc. A good journalist (are there any such creatures any more?) can use information on the 990 as a leaping off point for further investigation. E.g., who are STRATEGIC FUNDRAISING and why were they hired for fundraising of $450,077 when the main fundraiser, INFOCISION, raised $12.7 million dollars (and kept 60% as its fee). It's these little numbers that intrigue me. Somebody got $300,000 for that contract - who? Or whom? Or whomever?

Here's my breakdown and summary of some of the interesting things you can typically get from these reports. Let me state at the outset that some of the "icky" things the NRA does (like giving $8 million to a professional fundraiser) isn't out of line with other organizations. For example, Planned Parenthood (which DOES put its IRS 990 on its site - ) paid $4.5 million in "fundraising fees."

But there's a lot of interesting info in these filings . . .

NRA IRS form 990 (2010)

Total Revenue:    $227,811,279
Total Expenses:    $243,534,275

Note that they can't balance their own budget (they spent 16 million more than they took in). No biggy.

What they spent it on:

$219,500 in Grants (line 13)
.1 percent of expenses

Salaries and comp:   

21 percent of expenses

Professional Fundraising Fees:     $7,989,955
3 percent of expenses

"Other" expenses:     $183,658,170
75 percent of expenses


Part VIII, Section A

The following "Directors" reported averaging 1 hour / week of work and earned:

(31) DAVID BUTZ     $151,033
(46) SANDRA S FROMAN $45,180
(49) MARION P HAMMER     $190,000
(69) LANCE OLSEN $90,000

MY NOTE: If you continue to SCHEDULE L PART IV Business Transactions Involving Interested Persons we find Butz listed as making $151,033 and Hammer making $190,000 both listed for ... ta da! CONSULTING. Consulting for what? Worth investigating.

Part VIII, Section B Independent Contractors

Infocision - MEMBERSHIP PROC SOLICITOR    $12,397,032    5% of expenses ; 7% of "other"

Palm Coast Data - MEMBERSHIP PROCESSING    $9,978,184    4% of expenses

Valtim - FULFILLMENT CENTER            $9,814,106    4% of expenses

Postmaster - POSTAGE SHIPPING                $8,408,585    3% of expenses

Part VIII - Statement of Revenue

ADVERTISING                $20,922,249 (9% of revenue)
SUBSCRIPTIONS                $1,506,014    (0.7% of revenue)

With all the advertising revenue I'm surprised they don't give subscriptions away.

Part IX - Statement of Functional Expenses

1.Grants/assistance to govts and orgs in US    $189,000    0.07% of expenses
2. Grants/assistance to individuals in US    $ 30,500    0.001% of expenses
12. Advertising and Promotion            $28,506,230    11% of expenses
24D. "ADDITIONAL INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION"        $9,943,784    4% of expenses

SCHEDULE F - Statement of Activities Outside of the US (mysteries abound)

Central America and the Caribbean - Investments    $4,000,000
Central America and the Caribbean - PROGRAM SERVICES - LAW ENFORCE TRAINING $25,000

SCHEDULE G - Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities

INFOCISION    PAID SOLICITOR    $12,739,255 gross receipts ($7,687,860 retained or %60)
STRATEGIC FUNDRAISING (PD SOL)    $450,077 gross receipts ($302,095 retained or %67)

Who is Strategic Fundraising? Is there a conflict of interest with and NRA board member with this company, family member, politician? Seems like "only" $300k can slip beneath the radar pretty easily.

SCHEDULE I - PART III - Undergraduate Scholarships - 19 were awarded total of $30,500 avg $1,605.26

SCHEDULE R - PART V - Transactions with related organizations

NRA FOUNDATION INC        $12,573,541
NRA FOUNDATION INC        $4,126,180
NRA FOUNDATION INC        $5,066,935

Questions can be raised and further investigation can/should come about by perusing the ever handy IRS form 990.

Any questions?

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