Covering sports: A glossary of terms

by July 28, 2011

Whether you come to the business of sports beat as a sports reporter or from the business desk, you’ll need to be familiar with business terms.

Here are some terms you would find in the financial records for non-profit organizations, which run sports-related businesses in small and large communities. Keeping this list of terms handy will remind you of places to look for financial records:

501(c) – This is the designation by the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt non-profit organizations. This tax-exempt status allows non-profit organizations to not pay taxes on revenue and donations made to the non-profit are tax deductible.IRS form 990

Form 990 – This is the name of the tax return that non-profit organizations file with the IRS. Non-profits must, by law, make their three most recent years of 990 forms available for public viewing. You can also see the most recent filings for free at For a subscription fee, you can pay to view records at guidestar that in some cases go back 10 years.

Total Revenue – This is all the money, including donations and investment income, that comes in for the year.

Total Expenses – These are all the costs, including salaries, benefits and money given away, during the year.

Net assets or fund balances – This is the total amount of money the non-profit has. This is a historical measurement as money can accrue over time, and major non-profits like college bowl games could have tens of millions of dollars in net assets or fund balances.Revenue less expenses – This is the bottom line for the year. Like a successful private business, this should be a positive number.

Reportable compensation – This is the salary, bonus or other income of employees. Make sure you look to see if employees are getting compensation from organizations related to the non-profit. Also, look at Schedule J to see if any of the officers are getting additional perks like first-class travel or having their health club dues paid for by the non-profit. (That actually does occur).

Contractors – These are organizations that do business with a non-profit. A non-profit on Schedule O has to list the compensation of its top five contractors. This is a good place to look to see if there are questionable business relationships.