Our young organization received the official IRS letter of our 501(c)(3) status mid-April, and of course, we got all excited as we are now able to apply for Google for Nonprofits and other services available for nonprofits, i.e., Techsoup. And our supporters now receive tax exemptions. (We still had to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services though)
When I tried to register NPTech Projects for Google for Nonprofits, I was quite surprised to receive an instant rejection.
I didn’t even have to wait the anticipated three days! As I had the original IRS letter in my hand, I went and scanned it, hoping there would be an alternative way to apply for this great Google service. Of course, you should always have a digital version of the IRS letter, for other purposes, too. I just wished I could already store it on the Google Drive space that comes with Google for Nonprofits.
When I went to the Google For Nonprofit User Forum (Discussion Group) and searched for 501(c)(3), I saw only a few posts about how to deal with rejection, but none of them covered this particular case.
After a good night’s sleep, I realized that the immediacy of the rejection might hold the clue to find out what happened. Instant rejection means there was automation involved.
Google’s application process uses the information entered to check ‘somewhere’ for a first screening. The unique identifier Google might have used would be the EIN number of the organization. There are quite a few entities that provide nonprofit look-up, and after some research, I found that they are all based on the same data: The data, which the IRS published on the website provided by the IRS publically.
After some digging on the website, I found the EO Select Check page, which allows you to search the database for nonprofits by EIN date, name, city. It also provides a link to download a text file with the EIN numbers, Name, city, state, and type information of all 968,185 active nonprofit organizations (4/11/16)
Entering our EIN the search confirmed Google’s finding: we are not yet listed in this public data.
The IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check
The most precise search results appear with a search by EIN.
The IRS updates its publicly accessible database on a monthly basis. It also states that is just recently changed from a quarterly to monthly update frequency. Counting my blessing that I don’t have to wait three months but only one month. Yay!
We received our letter April 15, 2016. The stamp says, that it was approved April 8, 2016. The latest update on the IRS website was on April 11, 2016. Bar further information, I assumed the publicly accessible database was updated before the internal process of assigning 501(c)(3) to an EIN and update the record in their internal database was completed.
All we could do now was wait. Our trial period for Google Apps for Nonprofit application might run out before we can apply again. But the worst that can happen is that we need to enter a credit card and pay for one month of service ($5 per month per user) before we can enroll it into Google for Nonprofit.
On May 10th, 2016, I noticed that the IRS’s public look-up was updated just the day before, on May 9th, 2016. Another search revealed our organization, was now also listed on the public data-exchange site. Yes!
I went back to Google For Nonprofit Application screen and reapplied.
And this time, we pass the initial look-up test and receive success message that the application has been received.
Going back to My Organizations scene, I also saw that the status changed from “Rejected” to “Pending.”
And two days later, I received confirmation that we were successfully enrolled and able to sign-up for other GFNP services, Google Apps, etc.