Form 990: A Nonprofit Marketing Tool

by | Apr 8, 2020


Storytelling is a great skill. Everyone knows that the best stories have the power to influence and inspire people. As a nonprofit, you likely have several compelling stories to tell. But, have you ever used your Form 990 as a communication tool? With so many nonprofits competing for donations, advocacy, and more, it’s time to consider it as an important part of your marketing mix. Here are tips on how to do it right:

1) Define your audience

Since your Form 990 is a tax return for public disclosure, you’ll want to think about the people who will be reading it. It could be donors, employees, board members, and other stakeholders. In all cases, you’ll want to be as transparent as possible, as it helps your supporters better understand the financial health of your nonprofit.

2) Focus on your messaging

Once you’ve defined your audience, figure out what subjects would resonate most with them. Consider promoting the good work of your organization. Examples include stories about how donations were utilized in a constructive way, steps your organization took to increase its efficiencies or heartwarming narratives about your clients. Think about messaging that communicates your vision, increases your visibility, showcases your accomplishments, and boosts your credibility.

Form 990 - A Nonprofit Marketing Tool

3) Include a clear mission statement

Form 990 requires you to describe your organization’s mission and significant activities. Your narrative should be clear yet concise so that it’s easy to understand. Use the space to your advantage — you are provided only three lines!

4) Elaborate appropriately

The three best places to share your stories on Form 990 are:

  • Part I – Summary: This is where you describe what your organization does (the “what” and “how”).
  • Part III – Statement of Program Service Accomplishments: Use this section to highlight your mission (the “why”) and most significant accomplishments. Provide information on your programs, services, events, community value, outcomes, and the constituents you serve.
  • Schedule O: If you’d like to elaborate further on what you shared in Part III, this is the place to do it. You may want to explain the effectiveness of your programs by providing more quantitative data.

5) Make your 990 easy to read

The way you write your stories is just as important as the content itself. All sections should be clear and convincing for your audience. Avoid using acronyms and other jargon that your audience may not understand. Also, refrain from handwriting or uploading and sharing blurry photocopies of your Form 990. With the right tools, you can have a highly professional 990 prepared that’s both easy to read and a cinch to share via PDF.

Need a hand preparing your Form 990? It’s one of our specialties here at Qbix. Learn how we can help — schedule a call today. You’ll be glad you did.


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