Making Sense of Your 990-PF

Posted on July 20, 2011 by Rob Lane

By Robert J. Lane, CPA, The Patterson Foundation Finance Partner

As many in the philanthropy sector know, the 990-PF is the information return U.S. private foundations file with the Internal Revenue Service. This public document provides fiscal data for the foundation, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete giving/grants list.

As it became time to present The Patterson Foundation’s (TPF) first 990-PF after the foundation was fully funded, we became concerned about how we could help readers understand what was taking place at TPF.

Because The Patterson Foundation values working with the best and brightest, our firm, Kerkering Barberio reached our to a professional association called The Leading Edge Alliance, which is composed of 60 independent CPA firms from around the country.

As we often do, we lean on this group of talented firms to help us think-through and offer ideas and solutions for unique or challenging situations. One of the members of the Alliance is Clark Nuber in Washington state. They prepare the 990-PF for and work closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They worked with Commerce Clearing house (CCH) on preparing a reader guide for their 990PF. We found their framework to be very helpful as we moved forward with The Patterson Foundation's 990-PF.

Here's what we featured from the form:

  • History of the TPF and it’s current initiatives
  • How the amounts that are required to be distributed are calculated
  • How much was required to be paid out in 2009? And 2010?
  • Administrative expenses and how they compare with other Foundations
  • Key numbers and how they cross reference to the actual tax return

Each year we intend to have the Reader’s guide provide insights regarding key items achieved in that year as well as translate the complexity of the form and answer questions on peoples’ minds.

I hope you find it useful as well. Click here for The Patterson Foundation 990-PF.

These items will change in the future as we determine what were the key items to be communicated in a given year.

What Challenges do find in explaining your 99OPF?

About The Patterson Foundation Finance Lens

As The Patterson Foundation's finance partner, the finance lens collaborates with the foundation and its partners on philanthropic compliance and financial sustainability, including recommending appropriate avenues to explore how initiatives can thrive beyond initial funding and resources from The Patterson Foundation.


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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