While many for-profit companies have their financial statements readily available, non-profit financial statements can be more difficult to find. Read a financial statement to let you know how the non-profit is doing or what it's spending donations on. Before you donate money, know how the non-profit you’re interested in is doing financially. Knowledge of its financial position can help you ensure that your donation will reach the right people and is being used to maximum effect.

Search company filings through the Securities and Exchange Commission's Company Filings Database (see "Resources"). You can search by company name. If your non-profit is traded or has to report information to the SEC, it will be listed here.

Register for an account on Guidestar or Foundation Center (see "Resources"). You can search non-profits and see submitted financial information, usually collected from public 990 tax forms. It costs money to join the sites, but you can search for the company you're interested in before registering and make sure that it is listed.

Look up the non-profit you're interested in online. Its website may contain a set of financial statements to offer information to people considering donations. Look under headings such as Investors, Financials or Company Profile.

Search for public financial statements from your non-profit on MSN Money (see "Resources"). You can search by company name on this database as well.

Contact the non-profit company you're interested in. Explain that you'd like to see a financial statement and offer the company a compelling reason. With good enough reasoning, you may be able to receive a copy of financial statements for the past few years. If you go into the office during business hours, it has to let you examine its financial statements.

Write to the IRS. Include the name of the non-profit, the years of information you want and the type of tax return you're requesting to view. Form 990, filed by non-profits, should give you all the information you need. Send your request to:

Commissioner of Internal Revenue Attn: Freedom of Information Reading Room 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20224