A Citizens’ Guide: How to Research State Grants
You’ve seen our analysis and overview of state grant programs and examples of misuse. Now it’s your turn. The Civitas Institute put together a Money Maze Guide with videos to show how to search for organizations awarded grants and how to find their tax filings.It will walk you through the process of requesting public records to look at reports grantees are supposed to submit on how they spent the tax dollars and what they accomplished.
You’ll find a list of resource links. One takes you to NC Openbook where you can start your search on grants. There’s a link to the Office of State Budget and Management page that contains updated lists of grantees that have had funding suspended. The resource links also take you to the reports on federal stimulus funds in NC Recovery. Use the link to Guidestar to find federal tax forms filed by grantees. The Money Maze Primer also links you to a detailed description by Peter Swords of how to look through tax documents to study how an organization is structured, how much revenue it receives and what part of the income is spent on administrative costs, such as salaries. Another link sends you to a template for writing public records request letters.
Searching for Grants
NC Openbook is a good place to start looking up state and federal grants. Watch this short video to learn how to use the site.
- To start your own search go to NC Openbook grants page.
- The State Office of Budget and Management memorandums page is another place to browse grants. It posts a Suspension of Funding list of grantees which have failed in some way to comply with grant rules.
- NC Recovery.gov contains reports on where the funds from the Federal Stimulus Plan went.
Searching for IRS 990 forms
This short video will help you navigate a web site to search for federal tax forms non-profits are supposed to file with the IRS.
- Here is your link to Guidestar.
- The Peter Swords guide to help decipher the tax forms “How to Read the New IRS 990 Forms”
Public Records Requests
After you find the grant or grants for which you were looking you’ll realize the information you find on line gives you very little detail other than how much money an organization received. Tax forms usually won’t give you everything you want either. So the next step is to make a public records request for the reports grantees are supposed to file with the state or federal government. The reports are supposed to detail how the money was spent and what it accomplished. They are required to file those reports electronically so you can ask for them in that format. There is a Freedom of Information Act public records request form at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press web site. You type in the contact information of the agency holding the reports and it creates a letter you can download and print. You can also make the request through email.
Knowledge is power so here is the link to the State Public Records Law, G.S. Chapter 132.