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Listening as Trust Building: GuideStar’s Forum of Nonprofit Advisors

Building trust requires a degree of humility, a willingness to listen to others and taking action that incorporates what you have learned. Step by step. And over time. That’s how to build credibility and trust.

One of our trust building activities that we have undertaken is our convening of an advisory forum of nonprofit leaders. We want to serve nonprofit leaders. Who better to listen to than these leaders themselves.

Back in February of 2008, we launched our online Forum of Nonprofit Advisors. We wanted direct feedback on the GuideStar Exchange program that we were designing. It turns out that the Forum also provides another way for nonprofit professionals to connect with one another.

While the Forum is moderated by GuideStar staff, it provides nonprofit leaders with an open forum to give GuideStar candid feedback on

how we are doing. We are learning how to engage the community of advisors and to learn from them.

In the nearly 18 months since GuideStar launched this Forum, we have enrolled over 1,200 advisors and produced over 40 discussion threads. Most of the discussion threads have been started by GuideStar staff. Others have been started by the advisors to raise issues that concern them.

Here are some examples of some active discussion threads:

  • “What Wall Street Can Teach About The Need For Transparency”
  • “Why are federally accepted measures not enough to be listed on the exchange”
  • “Should boards be compensated”, and,
  • “Individual Reviews of Nonprofits Coming to GuideStar — Your Questions.”

We recen

tly started five discussion threads to gather feedback on our new report “The State of Nonprofit Transparency, 2008 – Voluntary Disclosure Practices.” (Order a free copy of the report here.) Each discussion thread asks for feedback on one of the recommendations we made in the report. We are getting good feedback as we begin to conduct our research for our 2009 report.

We have found the feedback offered by our advisors of great value as we prepared to launch the GuideStar Exchange. There was lively discussion regarding our plan to require audited financial statements. Small nonprofits and newly established groups proposed alternatives that made more sense to these organizations. For them, the costs of an audit outweighed the benefit an audit would give their organizations.

So we l

istened. Based on that feedback, we provided alternatives to ensure that any organization that wants to can participate in the GuideStar Exchange and still demonstrate a commitment to transparency.

We hope that there are more nonprofit leaders who may be interested in participating in GuideStar’s online Forum of Nonprofit Advisors. We would love to have your feedback and participation! Simply click this link and click on “Apply for Membership”. (Plea

se note that the Forum is a different website from, so your GuideStar login information will not work.)

I know that GuideStar’s programs for nonprofits can be improved. And we are using the Forum as a listening post so that we can learn directly from nonprofits that use GuideStar on how we can get better. With your help we will develop better and more relevant programs.

We will be pulling information from the Forum and posting it on this blog. In this way, we hope to share what we are learning with our larger community of nonprofits, foundations, donors, consultants and individuals who are interested in civil society.

Thanks to Vicki Nadal, the community manager of the Forum for Nonprofit Advisors, for her contribution to this post.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice