Transparency – it’s one quality that donors, funders and other stakeholders are looking for in a nonprofit and it’s something that nonprofits are striving to achieve. Making information accessible and easy to share isn’t always a simple task, however. With this in mind, we recently overhauled our GuideStar Exchange program to better align with the information our research indicates donors and funders are looking for, and to make it easier for nonprofits to showcase their commitment to transparency. This overhaul included a new tiered program structure, new benefits for participation, a new, easier platform to update information, and many other features.
Recently, we held the webinar “The Ins and Outs of the NEW GuideStar Exchange” to walk you through the program and its many new features. (You can view the recorded presentation here and access the slides here). Many of you submitted questions either during or after the presentation and I wanted to be sure to provide you with answers to those questions:
Q: Is there any way to verify where an organization is being accurate and truthful or whether they are engaging in artistic regarding their effectiveness?
A: The GuideStar Exchange program is about nonprofit transparency. We give organizations an opportunity to tell their story, in their own words, to the public. At the end of the GuideStar Exchange form, nonprofits are required to assert that the information they have shared is up to date and accurate. Therefore, we primarily trust nonprofits to tell their story truthfully. We do, however, perform quality assurance checks from time to time on a random selection of nonprofit submissions and contact nonprofits when we believe they might clarify or improve the quality of their responses. We invite individuals reviewing a nonprofit’s information to do the same and if they find that the information represented is inaccurate or false, to contact the organization directly so they can update their responses.
Q: I’m looking to understand the impact of all this data collated, not in isolation. How can we learn more as a sector from impact data?
A: This is a wonderful question and something to which we at GuideStar hope we can contribute. GuideStar’s database is based on individual organizations and the GuideStar Exchange program celebrates a nonprofit’s commitment to data transparency by encouraging organizations to share in-depth information about their organization. Very soon, we will be revealing our latest strategic plan with direction from our new CEO, Jacob Harold. In this plan, we explain new tools and products we hope to develop in order to help the public learn more about sector trends through analysis, and through the aggregation of data from multiple sources, tell a more complete story about how the nonprofit sector is doing. So, stay tuned!
Q: Can you provide more specific information about the information required for the Gold-level?
A: The five Charting Impact questions are the final step an organization needs to complete in order to reach the Gold-level (after they have completed the requirements for the Bronze and Silver levels). These five questions were carefully crafted by representatives from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, and Independent Sector with consultation and input from a variety of additional stakeholders at nonprofit organizations and foundations. By answering these questions, nonprofits can save countless hours applying for foundation grants because they will have already worked through answering these key questions. Here’s some more information and direction about how to think about these questions.
As a reminder, you can view all of the participation-level requirements and benefits here.
Q: We are starting a “study group” of nonprofits in our city that want to go for the Gold Level. The online resources look good, but do you have any additional recommendations for us?
A: Congratulations and what a wonderful idea! In addition to referencing the guidance for each of the five Charting Impact questions mentioned above, you can find links to additional resources to help answer these questions here: http://www.guidestar.org/rxg/update-nonprofit-report/resources/charting-impact-resources.aspx
While it may sound obvious, I recommend you start with the first question and as an organization, brainstorm some possible responses. You might reach out to a variety of stakeholders to help you narrow your focus. This might include executive leadership, other staff members, board members, beneficiaries of your organization, volunteers, or donors. Then as a study group, come together and share what you’re learning and ask for feedback from each other. Then continue to tackle each additional question in a similar iterative manner.
I’d love to hear how the process goes for you and if you have any recommendations for other groups that might be interested in doing something similar. Feel free to reach out to me during or after the process with your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
So, is your organization ready to further your commitment to transparency? Find out how to get started as a GuideStar Exchange participant here.
As always, should you have questions or concerns as your organization continues its commitment to transparency, feel free to let us know. Don’t forget to view the recorded presentation here and access the slides here.
Erinn Andrews is GuideStar’s senior director of nonprofit strategy. Formerly the Chief Operating Officer for Philanthropedia, Erinn started out at GuideStar as the Director of Data, Research, and Partner Relationships from February 2011 – May 2012. In this capacity, she oversaw the Philanthropedia research, identified new data partners for GuideStar, managed the relationships with GuideStar’s current external partners, and managed the TakeAction component of GuideStar’s site. Now, in addition to those duties Erinn develops the strategy for and overseeing the GuideStar Exchange program, GuideStar’s primary initiative to engage nonprofits. You may reach Erinn directly at email@example.com.