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Tag Archive: Nonprofits

A tactical data toolkit will help nonprofits in Madison, WI make the case for their work


Today we are incredibly proud to present the result of our Tactical Data Engagement project with the City of Madison, WI. The final product is a data toolkit designed to help nonprofit organizations working to reduce youth violence on Madison’s Northside find and use open data to better contextualize their work and goals in grant applications to the City.

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OpenGov Voices: Announcing CitizenAudit, a free tool for fully-OCRd nonprofit financials


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the Luke Rosiakopinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Luke Rosiak is a former Sunlight Foundation reporter and database analyst who now writes for the Washington Examiner. Luke is also a winner of Sunlight Foundation’s OpenGov Grants for his project, CitizenAudit. You can reach Luke on Twitter at @lukerosiak.

In return for not paying taxes, nonprofits in the U.S. file detailed financial disclosures to the IRS, listing how much of their money goes to certain categories, how much they pay their top people and what groups they give money to.

But even though large nonprofits submit structured electronic data, the IRS takes pains to convert it into paper copies and doesn’t make them available publicly at all, instead directing interested parties to request a copy from the organization itself.

Recently, tech pioneer Carl Malamud’s Public.Resource.Org began successfully filing Freedom of Information Act requests for all disclosures--990s, as they are called---and paying the IRS on a monthly basis for reams of DVDs with TIFF images. Some are scanned paper filings, for others the IRS went out of their way to turn structured data into a mere image. None has an embedded text layer.


The information is invaluable for philanthropists, journalists and competitors--and the universe of nonprofits is enormous, including the major sports leagues, political groups, hospitals and universities and quasi-public institutions.

So I began an enormous OCRing spree, using open-source tools and home-built software and put the results in elasticsearch and PostgreSQL on a free site. The effort, half the funding for which came thanks to a Sunlight Foundation OpenGov grant of $5,000, is called

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The Political Spending of 501(c)(4) Nonprofits in the 2012 Election


Throughout the 2012 election cycle, Sunlight followed the unlimited money. From super PACs and corporations to unions and “dark money” we collected, in real time, the political spending reported by these outside groups. With the 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofits back in the news again (and the IRS’s enforcement of them), we wanted to take a closer look at how these organizations spent money to influence the 2012 election. We often use the term “dark money” to describe these groups since they can spend an unlimited amount on independent expenditures and electioneering communications yet they do not have to disclose their donors. For more information on how to track all types of federal campaign finance disclosures, check out this handy infographic. Overall, dark money groups reported $300 million in independent expenditures in 2012. Of the 50 groups who spent the most, 15 are 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Using our Follow The Unlimited Money tracker, Political Ad Sleuth, Ad Hawk and return on investment calculations, here is how they made an impact in the race for the White House and Congress.

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Tangled web: The IRS role in campaign finance


Dark Money

With the burgeoning scandal about the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) singling out small conservative nonprofit groups for scrutiny, upcoming hearings, and a Justice Department investigation, the public is getting a quick schooling in the byzantine ways tax exempt "social welfare" groups get involved in the political game. 

A long list of nonprofit groups spend big on politics. They run the gamut from well known organizations of long standing, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Crossroads GPS, the brainchild of Republican strategist Karl Rove. As reported in the New York Times, even as it was apparently targeting small Tea ...

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