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Aloha, GuideStar: Hawaii Attorney General Uses GuideStar Information


GuideStar is recognized as the national database of nonprofit information, a valuable resource for a wide range of philanthropy-related research. By posting the Forms  990 and 990-PF of every 501(c)(3) nonprofit that files one, GuideStar provides the sector with easy access to information on the financial activities of hundreds of thousands of organizations. But GuideStar does more than simply scan these forms and post them on the Internet.

The data from every form that GuideStar receives is carefully digitized and added to a rapidly growing database. Currently, GuideStar captures more than 300 fields of information from each Form 990. More than 100 million values are hand-keyed each year.

Recently, Chuck McLean, GuideStar's vice president of research, used this database to analyze trustee compensation at some of the nation's largest nonprofit organizations and create a customized report for the Hawaii attorney general's office.

Attorney General Mark Bennett's office commissioned the report in connection with a probate court case involving remuneration for trustees of the Kamehameha Schools. The state objected to raises that a court-appointed panel had recommended for the trustees.

Using data reported on IRS Forms 990, McLean examined trustee compensation at (1) all public charities with total assets of $500 million or more, (2) all private foundations with total assets of $500 million or more, and (3) a peer group of 17 nonprofit educational institutions. The analysis determined that remuneration for Kamehameha Schools trustees far exceeded that of trustees at other institutions.

Both the Honolulu Advertiser and the  Honolulu Star-Bulletin covered the case. Judge Colleen Hirai ultimately approved raises for the trustees, although less than the court-appointed panel had recommended. In the face of pressure from the school's alumni, however, the trustees turned down the increases.

"This is the first time state officials have asked GuideStar for customized research," stated Robert G. Ottenhoff, GuideStar's president and CEO. "We are in a unique position to provide this kind of analysis. Our database contains information from the returns of more than 300,000 public charities and nearly 73,000 private foundations. In all, we have digitized data from more than 1.4 million individual Forms 990 for fiscal years 1997-2003."

"GuideStar's mission is 'to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice with information,'" said Dan Moore, GuideStar's vice president for public affairs. "One way we can do this is by providing state charities officials with the information they need to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. As a former employee of the New Mexico attorney general's office, I am delighted that we were able to assist the Hawaii attorney general's office."

If you'd like more information on commissioning a customized GuideStar report, contact Dan Moore.

Suzanne E. Coffman, April 2004
© 2004, Philanthropic Research, Inc.

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications.
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