Charities: Please show your EINs

EIN plate 12-3456789

FAQ #1: Why should a charity prominently show its EIN?

  • To help donors protect themselves.
  • To help donors get the results they want.
  • To help law enforcement combat “charity” scams.
  • EINs are the key to finding a particular charity.
  • While charity names can be similar, no two charities have the same EIN. EIN checking is more precise than DNA testing.
  • Charity names can be confusingly similar. For example, I entered “american cancer” as the organization name in the GuideStar.org advanced search box and got 104 results. I narrowed the name search to “american cancer society” and got 45 results. I entered “habitat for humanity” and got 2,092 results. Entered “veteran” and got 383 results; entered “veterans” and got 25,881!
  • Names can be used to mislead. Scam “charities” often adopt names confusingly similar to legitimate charities, siphoning off dollars needed for good works.

FAQ #2: What’s an EIN?

Every charity has its own unique federal employer identification number (EIN), which it obtains by applying to the IRS. An EIN is typically a nine-digit number, shown like 12-3456789. A few charities have EINs with eight or fewer digits (normally shown with a leading zero like 01-2345678).

FAQ #3: Why would a donor care?

  • Using an EIN is the quickest path to successful charity research.
  • Using an EIN is the quickest way to avoid “charity” scams.
  • Using an EIN is a solid way to avoid confusion among legitimate charities.
  • Using an EIN helps in checking for a charity’s current address.
  • Using an EIN helps document charitable deductions at tax time.

FAQ #4: How can a donor use an EIN in charity research?

Just enter the EIN (with or without the hyphen) at CharityCheck101.org, GuideStar.org, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, or even Google — you’ll quickly find available information about the group. The IRS has also added EINs to its EO Select Check online charity search.
EIN license plate

FAQ #5: You’re saying charity EINs are public information?

Yes. Charity EINs are a key part of the public disclosure system mandated by the Internal Revenue Code. They’re available on the IRS website for anyone to find. And they’re the pathway to finding charity information filed with the IRS and available through CharityCheck101.org, GuideStar.org and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. The system’s already in place, let’s use it!

FAQ #6: Could showing charity EINs help “charity” scammers?

No, it will hurt them. If all charity fundraisers show their EINs, “charity” scammers will also have to show EINs. Potential donors will know to look for the EIN, and ask for it when contacted for donations.

FAQ #7: Where should a charity prominently show its EIN?

Show the EIN prominently

  • On every piece of mail sent seeking a donation or other funding.
  • On every donation acknowledgement.
  • On the “About Us” page of the website and in the footer of every page.

Remember: No foundation would give a charity a grant unless the charity provided its EIN first.

Why should individual and family donors, who provide more than 80% of charity donations, have to waste time searching for charity EINs?

Have other views or experiences? Use the Leave a Reply / Comments section below.

7 comments to Show Your EINs

  • norman mccarthy

    tried to research Smile Train. Your EIN file will only take 9 digits. EIN for Smile train is 11 digits. Can’t get a report.

  • Robert

    As Recording Secretary/Financial Secretary of the 501(c)(8) organization that I belong to, I started a Facebook page for us and in the files I attached GuideStar’s results for our organization in the spirit of being open, transparent and to stimulate public confidence since we have significant fundraisers involving public donations. The post from GuideStar had our EIN on it. The other members confronted me with excoriating threats of bringing charges against me for seriously breaching in the security of our private business. I haven’t been able to convince them that our EIN isn’t so private and, in fact, it is encouraged to display our EIN. Now they have formed a committee to get with IRS and be reassigned a new EIN since it has been publicly exposed.

    • Edward Long

      Hi Robert,
      You might want to let folks know that, if the organization is truly an IRC 501(c)(8) organization, its EIN is readily publicly available to any from the IRS through the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check service.
      You might want to let folks know that if the organization files a Form 990 or Form 990-EZ annual return with the IRS, the entire return (including the EIN) is public information available from the IRS and elsewhere.
      These members may be confusing an EIN with a Social Security Number (SSN). SSNs are private information. Nonprofit EINs are public information.
      So, when the committee gets with the IRS to be reassigned a new EIN because the existing one have been made public, the IRS folks likely won’t think it’s the smartest request ever made.
      Hang in there.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  • Robert

    Thanks Edward! I’m afraid that I am dealing with difficult people in my organization. I like the graphic displayed by “Charity 101” showing the EIN on an automobile tag plate. Yes, SSN is private & only showed to qualified authorities – however, EIN is like a car tag – it’s an assigned number, but it’s visible by all citizens who is concerned about my driving and ownership of that vehicle. Yes, they claim that our EIN is private like our SSN. They are also having difficulty with understanding what a 501(c)(8) is.

  • EMMA MCNEELY

    Hey writing – I Appreciate the analysis . Does someone know if I would be able to grab a blank SSA-821-BK document to type on ?

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