If you have ever applied for a grant, especially from an entity or program receiving funds from the federal government, you have likely been asked to provide your organization’s DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number.
You may also wonder why you need to set one up. A DUNS number has the same number of digits as your employer ID number (EIN). If your organization doesn’t have one, you may also wonder why you need to call the company Dun & Bradstreet rather than a governmental agency to set one up.
The simple answer is that your EIN is associated with your IRS tax records and the DUNS number is associated with your business credit score.
But this simple answer can result in greater confusion. Tax forms like the W-9 ask for your EIN or social security number, both of which have the same number of digits as a DUNS number. Your social security number is associated with your personal credit score, why isn’t your organization’s employee identification number?
I don’t have many answers for that. It might actually be better if we had a separate number tied to our individual credit scores since social security numbers were never meant to be a universal identification number.
One reason the DUNS numbers are separate from EIN is that a DUNS number is tied to a physical address. This makes sense in the commercial for-profit realm since a branch of a company in California may have better credit than one in Florida, but there aren’t many non-profits that are so large that they have a single EIN but require different DUNS numbers.
On a related topic– while I haven’t heard of any non-profits that have been denied funding on the basis of poor credit scores, the trend of evaluating the effectiveness of non-profits based on overhead ratio makes me wonder if credit scores might start to be examined. This could be an area of concern given that the criteria employed to measure the credit worthiness of for-profit organizations is wholly unsuited for non-profits.
The process of applying for a DUNS number is relatively easy. The NJ Center for Non-Profits has a good help page which outlines the information you will need on hand when you either register online or call in.
Organizations can receive a DUNS number at no cost by simply calling Dun and Bradstreet’s dedicated toll-free DUNS number request line at 1-866-705-5711. The information needed to request a DUNS number is very minimal (see details below) and you will receive your number in 24 hours. You can also apply online or search for your existing information at http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform. If you don’t yet have a DUNS number, it can be created within 1 business day.
Of course, you can also apply through the Dun & Bradstreet site. In both options, the first step will be to check if you already have a DUNS number for your organization so you don’t create duplicates.