NGOsource Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Started

What is Equivalency Determination (ED) and what does it have to do with my getting a grant?
US tax law requires a private foundation to spend a minimum amount on qualifying charitable expenditures. The amount required is 5% of the average fair market value of the foundation's investment assets for the preceding year. A foundation that fails to meet this requirement is subject to stiff penalties.

A grant to a foreign organization is a qualifying charitable expenditure if the private foundation either (1) exercises expenditure responsibility procedures for the grant or (2) makes a good faith determination that the recipient is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity or private operating foundation, as defined by U.S. tax law. The Internal Revenue Service has defined rules for expenditure responsibility procedures and equivalency determinations.

Why isn't the information I'm providing to my grantmaker enough?
Grantmakers use NGOsource as a cheaper and more efficient substitute for conducting EDs themselves. Although you may be asked to provide some information to both NGOsource and your grantmaker, NGOsource will usually require a much higher level of detail. In most cases, you will only have to provide this detailed information to NGOsource the first time an ED is requested by a grantmaker. Subsequent submissions will require significantly less information.

What are the advantages of using NGOsource to get ED ?
Once you have been certified for one grantmaker by NGOsource, additional grantmakers can receive ED certifications for you immediately, and at low cost.

During your submission to NGOsource, a customer service representative will be available to you, usually from a nearby time zone, and usually in your native language. In addition, the NGOsource website where you enter your information is being offered in all the major global languages.

How do I log in to the NGOsource information repository?
When a grantmaker first requests an ED for you, an account will be set up for your organization and you will be sent an e-mail. The e-mail will include a link to the registration homepage and the login name and password to use on that page. Click on the link to be redirected to the homepage, and enter the user name and password in the appropriate fields.

How do I find my user name and password if I accidently deleted or otherwise lost the initial e-mail?
Contact NGOsource Customer Service. Different NGOs will be assigned to different Customer Service Representatives. If you do not remember the name and contact information of your Customer Service Representative, please click on the Contact Us or Support link on the webpage.

What if my organization does not have an e-mail address or Internet access?
You may use a personal e-mail account, and you may obtain Internet access from any provider, e.g., a library or an Internet café.

May I use an Internet-enabled cell phone?

No. While a cell phone may be adequate for e-mail communications with NGOsource, the repository does not support data entry through a cell phone Internet browser.

What do I do if my Internet access is poor, so it is difficult for me to use the website?

Contact your Customer Service Representative. He/she will help you. Your Representative's contact information is provided in the initial email sent to you.

Can I mail or fax my documents to you?
Yes, you can fax or mail documents to NGOsource Customer Service. Your Representative's contact information is provided in the initial email sent to you.


Getting Help

How do I get help?
This FAQ answers many common questions. In addition, an NGOsource Customer Service representative has also been assigned to you. Contact them to help resolve any additional questions you may have. Your Representative's contact information is provided in the initial email sent to you. You may also click on the gray "+ Help" box near the top right of the screen to see your Representative's contact information.

I feel the questions asked by the ED Submission Website are unclear. How can I get further clarification?
Help text is available by moving the computer mouse over the help bubble (a question mark) at the end of many questions. You may also search for terms in the Glossary, which is available to you online on the NGOsource website.

The website is not in my native language. How can I answer questions I do not understand?
If your preferred language is not currently supported, please contact your NGOsource Customer Service representative for further assistance.

How do I get help from a person?
In the e-mail sent to you with your login name and password, your NGOsource Customer Service representative was also listed. You may contact this organization to get help.

In what language(s) do you provide assistance?
As of February 1, 2010, assistance is available in English and Spanish. Chinese, French, Portuguese, German, and Russian are expected to be added in 2010. Additional languages will be added later.

When are you available to take phone calls or respond to my questions?
Your NGOsource Customer Service representative's hours of operation are shown on the NGOsource website.

Can you provide assistance in finding a translator?
Yes, you may contact NGOsource Customer Service to ask for suggested translators.

Privacy and Data Security

How is my security protected?
Only grantmakers who have requested an ED for you, and whom you have approved, can view your data.
All data and text sent to the NGOsource website from your browser is encrypted to prevent it from being stolen in transit on the Internet.
NGOsource data can only be accessed via password protected accounts.

Who will be allowed to see my information? Am I required to make my information open to the public?
Only grantmakers who have requested an ED for you, and whom you have approved, can view your data.
Only your organization name, country, and ED status will be visible to the general public.

Submission Process

What benefits do I obtain from receiving an NGOsource certification?
An ED certification from NGOsource is documentation for U.S. grantmakers that you are equivalent to a U.S. Public Charity, allowing them to make charitable donations to you.
Other U.S. grantmakers may see your ED status on the NGOsource website, and obtain very low cost ED certifications for you, so that they can also make charitable donations to you.

What is the overall ED process?

  • A U.S. grantmaker selects an NGO that they are considering to make a grant.
  • The grantmaker requests an Equivalency Determination ED (required by the U.S. government) from NGOsource.
  • The NGO accepts (or declines) the request to provide all of the required information.
  • An NGOsource Customer Service representative is assigned to the NGO.
  • The NGO provides all the information required for the ED by filling in forms on the NGOsource website and uploading documents to the website.
  • The NGOsource Customer Service representative assists the NGO in submitting a complete, accurate submission.
  • The NGOsource Review team reviews the submission and determines, following U.S. Internal Revenue Service rules, whether or not the NGO is the equivalent of a U.S. charity.
  • In some cases, the NGO is asked to update its submission in order to achieve certification.
  • If the NGO is certified, the grantmaker can make a charitable distribution to it.
  • Submitted information will be current (active) for just one year. After one year, the NGO will then need to log back on to the website and provide some updated information.
  • If the NGO is not certified, then the grantmaker may consider following the Expenditure Responsibility (ER) process so that it can still make a charitable distribution to the NGO.

When will I receive the grant funds?
Once your ED submission is complete, the ED certification decision will be made within 2-4 weeks. After that decision, the time until the grant is delivered is determined solely by the grantmaker.

How and when will I be informed whether or not I've been ED certified by NGOsource?
You will be notified by e-mail once your ED application has been submitted, reviewed and a final determination made.

Who makes the ED certification decision?
NGOsource's ED Review Team in San Francisco, California.

Can I modify my submission?
You can modify information as often as necessary until you mark your submission as complete and the NGOsource Customer Service representative accepts it as complete.
Once a submission has been marked as complete, only the Review Team may request modifications.

How much time and effort will be required to complete the submission?
The tasks are:

  • Collection of important documents, like articles of incorporation and annual reports. This may take a few minutes to over an hour.
  • Familiarization with the NGOsource website. A few minutes to over an hour.
  • Entering all the required data. With good Internet connectivity, in some cases this will take less than an hour. With poor Internet connectivity, this could take more than an hour or even several hours.
  • If your native language is not English, translation of your documents to English. Typically over 1 day.
  • Uploading documents to the NGOsource website. Usually minutes.

How much time do I have to complete the ED submission?
You should aim to have the submission completed in 1 to 2 weeks.

What happens if I don't complete the ED submission by the deadline?
Your NGO will not be certified by NGOsource, and the grantmaker may not make a grant.

What happens if I'm Not ED Certified?
The grantmaker may consider using Expenditure Responsibility or hiring another provider to conduct an ED.

Can I question an ED Not Certified decision?
No. However, our standard process includes the first submission and a free re-submission. The intent of the re-submission is to allow an NGO to fix any addressable problems in the submission that were identified in the review. A Not Certified decision will be made only if problems cannot be addressed during re-submission. In that case, all problems are generally identified in a report to the grantmaker. The NGO could rectify these problems, and the grantmaker could submit a new ED request.

Can I join NGOsource and pay the necessary annual membership and ED processing and renewal fees?
At present, only U.S. based organizations can join NGOsource. In the future, NGOs may be able to submit themselves to NGOsource.

Can someone else pay for my NGOsource annual membership and ED submission fee?
Yes. If a grantmaker or a "Friends of" organization requests an ED, the grantmaker will be responsible for paying the submission fee.

Questions about the ED Submission Website

What if I do not know the answer to a question?
Required questions are marked onscreen by an asterisk (*). If a question is not marked with an asterisk, then it is optional and may be left blank. If a question is marked with an asterisk (*) but you do not know the answer, please contact your NGOsource Customer Service representative for assistance.

What if a question is not applicable to my organization?
Many of the optional questions will not apply to every organization. If an optional question does not apply to your organization, leave that field empty. For required questions, please contact NGOsource Customer Service for assistance.

Do I have to answer the questions in order?
No. The questions may be answered in any order you wish. However, please ensure that you have filled out all the required fields before submitting your application.

If I leave the ED Submission Website before submitting will it save my answers?
At the bottom of exit page is a button labeled "Save and Quit." If you need to leave the ED Submission Website for any reason, simply click this button and all information you have already entered will be saved and will show the next time you log in.

What if I do not have any field offices?
You may leave this section blank.

What if I do not have any related organizations?
You may leave this section blank.

Why do I need to provide an alternate contact?
In case we cannot reach you, we will contact the alternate contact for your organization.

What if I do not know or have access to the date that our organization was first established?
If you do not know the exact date, please use the date (or a close estimate to) when your organization submitted its governing documents.

Can I upload one document/PDF with all my governing documents, or do I need to upload each document separately?
Either. You may upload one document/PDF that contains all of your governing documents. Or you may upload each document separately.

What if I do not have my governing documents?
U.S. government regulations require that you submit a copy of your governing documents in order to complete your submission. You may wish to contact your local government to obtain a copy of your governing documents.

My native language is not English, and my NGO's documents are not written in English. Do we have to answer all questions in English and translate our documents to English?
Yes. Although we understand that it may be difficult to translate answers and documents to English, U.S. law requires that all submitted document are in English and that our review be completed in English.

I need help finding a translator. Can you help me?
Yes. We provide a list of suggested translators.

What does it mean for an organization to dissolve?
When an organization dissolves, the organization terminates, stops operating and ceases to exist. For example, the organization can wind down, merge with another organization, convert to a for-profit entity, or enter another situation where it no longer exists for charitable purposes.

Can my organization engage in any political campaign activity?
No. Under U.S. law, an organization cannot participate in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds are also considered political campaign activity.

Can my organization attempt to influence legislation?
Yes, but only as a small part of your activities. The organization cannot devote more than 5% of total expenditures or more than 5% of staff and volunteer time each year to attempting to influence legislation.

The following activities are considered to be attempting to influence legislation: 1) contacting, or urging the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, and 2) advocating the adoption or rejection of legislation.

Do I need to include 5 years of financial data?
If your organization has been in existence for at least 5 years, then 5 years of your financial data are required. If your organization has not been in existence for 5 years, you will be asked to provide projected financials.

What if my organization has not been in existence for 5 years?
The website provides separate forms for new organizations (those that have been in existence for less than 5 years) and organizations that have been in existence for 5 or more years. If your organization has not been in existence for 5 years, you will be asked to provide any actual financials (if available) plus projected financials to create at least 3 years of financial data. For example, if your organization is brand new, then it will be asked to provide 3 years of projected data. If your organization is 2 years old, then you will be asked to provide 2 years of actual financials, and 1 year of projected financials. If your organization is 3 years old, then you will need to provide 3 years of actual data. If your organization is 4 years old, then you will need to provide 4 years of actual data.

Do I need to submit audited financials?
If you have audited (reviewed by an independent accounting firm) financials available, please use these numbers. If you do not have audited financials available, please use the best data you have available. For example, if you have 4 years of audited financials, but do not have audited financials for your most recent year, please use estimates for your most recent year.

Do I need to include all of my funders?
No. As required by U.S. government regulations, you only need to include funders that contributed more than 2% of your total support. Based on the information you input, the 2% of total support threshold will be automatically displayed for you in the section called "Publicly Supported Organization - 2." Please enter only those funders who contributed more than this amount.

Why do I need to select the entity type for my funders?
As required by U.S. government regulations, we need this information to classify contributions as coming from either a public or private source.

What if I do not know the entity type of my funder?
Please use your best judgment based on the definitions provided. If you need additional help, please contact NGOsource Customer Service.

Private individual - individual donors
Private foundation - Moore Foundation, Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation
Public charity - World Wildlife Fund, United Way, universities
Government entity - USAID, Province of British Columbia

What if a funder only gave money for 1 year?
Enter the amount of the grant in the correct year and leave the other years blank. Be sure to enter in the funder name and select the type of entity.

Do I have to enter any grants for the most recent year(s) if I did not receive any?
No. If you did not receive grants for a certain year, leave those fields blank.

What if none of my grants exceed 2% of total funding received?
If none of your grants exceed 2% of your total funding, then you will not need to enter any funders on the screen called "Publicly Supported Organization - 2."

Who is allowed to sign on behalf of the organization?
An authorized representative is a person who is allowed to sign contracts and agreements and conduct activities on behalf of the organization. This person must be an officer or director of the organization. This person should have a title such as Executive Director, President, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, General Secretary, Director, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Trustee, Director, or Vice-President.