ProPublica Expands Online Form 990 Search Access

News and investigation website ProPublica launched an addition to its NonProfit Explorer page for search of Form 990s. And, one of its initial funders has died.

Herbert Sandler, 87, died June 5 at his home in San Francisco, it was announced by the Sandler Foundation. He and wife Marion built a small savings and loan, Golden West Financial, into 285 branches with 11,000 employees.

The ironic element of the seed money Sandler gave to the digital news site is that the couple was so conservative with their operations that they were late to the game of using ATMs at the savings and loan. Sandler committed $10 million to the news operation, which has garnered five Pulitzer Prizes.

Paul E. Steiger, ProPublica’s founding editor and chief executive, said via a statement that Sandler: “… reminded us never to forget our core mission: to expose unreported abuse of power and failure to uphold the public interest.” Sandler also funded the Center for American Progress.

ProPublica’s, which has done investigative work on nonprofits, most notably the American Red Cross, launched a new feature for its Nonprofit Explorer database. Users can search the full text of nearly 3 million electronically filed nonprofit tax filings sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) since 2011.

Nonprofit Explorer already lets researchers, reporters and the general public search for tax information from more than 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, as well as allowing users to search for the names of key employees and directors of organizations.

Users of the free database can search for text that appears anywhere in a nonprofit’s tax records, as long as those records were filed digitally — which according to the IRS covers about two-thirds of nonprofit tax filings in recent years.

Any nonprofit that gives grants to another must list those grants on its tax forms — meaning that users can research a nonprofit’s funding.