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Database Challenges

There are many challenges inherent in creating a database from multiple listings that may affect the quality of the database.

General Challenges

  • Each institutional or formal list includes only nonprofits that have requested entrance to the list and have been accepted as meeting specified criteria by authorities that control the list.
  • Although every effort has been made to identify duplicates, none of the lists share common identifiers by which to easily identify duplicate listings. Therefore organizations with changed names, operating under different names, or using several reporting addresses may appear as separate organizations.
  • None of the listings are fully current and may contain not only defunct organizations, but also some listed under previous addresses or with names different from what they use currently.
  • We suspect that there are a variety of data entry errors. We know this for a fact with regard to city names, which may have been entered under a variety of spellings.

Based on our efforts to survey Indiana nonprofits in the early part of 2002 and track down non-respondents in the fall of 2002, we estimate that our combined database contains about 15 percent defunct nonprofits and another 4-5 percent that are inappropriate for other reasons (e.g., duplicates, for-profits, government owned, or no longer located in Indiana).

For a description of how the database was created, see our database protocol (you will need the Acrobat program to read the document) as well as several papers posted on our "Paper Abstracts" page.

The three major listings used for this study present special advantages and challenges. We include organizations recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt organizations under section 501(c) of the IRS code and using Indiana as their primary reporting address. We also include organizations incorporated as nonprofits with the Indiana Secretary of State as well as congregations of various types included in the yellow pages of phone directories for the state of Indiana. Finally, the full database also includes nonprofits obtainined from 2001 local listings in eleven communities across the state and those identified through a 2001 survey of Indiana residents about their personal affiliations with Indiana nonprofits.

Internal Revenue Service: Tax Exempt Entities

  • Churches are not required to register with the IRS. Neither are some church-related entities and apostolic orders, nor home-owners associations, political committees, or qualified retirement plans.
  • Organizations with revenues of less than $5,000 are not required to register with the IRS.
  • Organizations with revenues of $5,000 or more must register with the IRS if they are eligible for tax-exemption under the following sub-sections of the IRS code: 501(c)(3) - charities; 501(c)(9) - voluntary employees' beneficiary associations; 501(c)(17) - supplementary unemployment benefit trusts; 501(c)(20) - legal services organizations. Other types of nonprofits are not required to register, but will not be considered tax-exempt unless they do so.
  • Organizations may use another nonprofit as a fiscal agent and therefore may not be registered separately.
  • Affiliated organizations or local chapters may file as part of a “group exemption” and be listed under the address of the headquarters organization, usually located in a different city or state.
  • Nonprofit organizations, which dissolve or are no longer active, may fail to notify the IRS so that at least some organizations on this listing may be defunct. Beginning in 2008, nonprofits may lose their tax exempt status if they fail to submit an annual report to the IRS.
  • It may take some time for new organizations to seek and obtain recognition by the IRS as tax-exempt organizations so that new organizations may not appear on the IRS listing until some time after they are established.
  • Some government-owend entities (e.g., state universities, public libraries, public school corporations) may chose to obtain recognition as tax-exempt entities by registering as such with the IRS, but are not required to do so.

Indiana Secretary of State: Incorporated Nonprofits

  • Nonprofits decide whether they wish to operate as a formal corporation. Only those that do so will appear on the Secretary of State listing of incorporated nonprofits.
  • Nonprofits may operate in Indiana, but be incorporated in another state and therefore would not show up on a listing of Indiana incorporated nonprofits.
  • Nonprofit organizations, which dissolve or are no longer active, may fail to notify the Secretary of State, suggesting that at least some organizations on this listing may be defunct.
  • Nonprofit organizations which fail to file annual reports with the Secretary of State's office may be declared "administratively inactive" even though the organization may still be operating.
  • It may take some time for new organizations to decide on whether to seek formal incorporation, file the necessary papers, and have their application approved.

Yellow Pages of Phone Directories: Churches and Religious Groups

  • Congregations, temples, mosques, and the like may chose not to have their names and phone numbers included in the yellow pages of phone directories.
  • It may take some time for new congregations to have their names included in the yellow pages and for those that move or go out of business to have their names removed from the directory.