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GuideStar Blog

The Benefits of Stakeholder Reviews

Several days ago, GuideStar hosted a free Webinar led by Perla Ni, founder and CEO of Great Nonprofits in San Francisco. (FYI, we began including GreatNonprofits reviews in our nonprofit reports in March. You can read more about them here.) Like most of our recent Webinars, this one was fully subscribed.

Answering the Call

How would you have answered this call?

Will Mergers and Acquisitions Be the Nonprofit Wave of the Future?

Will this economic climate encourage nonprofits to begin thinking seriously about mergers and acquisitions?

Meeting The Future in California

Can we dream a minute?

COF: Pulled Pork at the Sports Bar

Here’s the text of my first post from the COF conference on Tactical Philanthropy:

COF: Impact!

My second post from the COF conference for Tactical Philanthropy:

My Morning on the Radio

Last week I was interviewed by 7 radio stations in the space of three hours! A marathon, you say? Last year I did 18 interviews in about the same time span, so this exercise seemed like a piece of cake in comparison.

Reporting from COF

I’m part of a team of bloggers writing this week from the COF conference for Sean Stannard-Stockton’s blog, Tactical Philanthropy. Read my first post >

From the President's Office, May 2009

Dear Friend:

Top-Rated Environmental Nonprofits Announced

Last month, our partner GreatNonprofits celebrated Earth Month with the Green Choice campaign, in which they asked the public to submit reviews and ratings about environmental nonprofits. During the course of the campaign, 26,000 people visited, submitting 835 reviews for 104 nonprofits. (The reviews also can be seen in the organizations' reports on GuideStar, as reviews posted on GreatNonprofits automatically appear on GuideStar, and vice versa.)

"The results provide surprising insights into the kinds of organizations that people regard as effective," stated Perla Ni, founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits. "Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and other large environmental groups were available for review, but they didn’t see the kinds of results that their leaner counterparts did. For example, NRDC got only 5 reviews, whereas the tiny Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group garnered 44."

The following nonprofits had the most positive reviews in their budget ranges or categories and were named the winners of the 2009 Green Choice Awards:

The Revised Form 990: A How-to Guide for Your Organization

Note: The following discussion is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice. For specific information about completing IRS Form 990, consult your legal or tax advisor.

On December 20, 2007, the Internal Revenue Service introduced the revised 2008 Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. This was the first redesign of the Form 990 in over 30 years, having no previous significant revisions since 1979. Although the new Form 990 still requires financial information as it did in the past, there are expanded reporting requirements, including information related to governance, oversight, and additional disclosures.

The revised Form 990 will require expanded recordkeeping and disclosure of information regarding the organization's governance and administrative policies. The IRS's intent is to improve the governance behaviors of organizations. With the current state of the economy in the forefront of all donors' minds, the Form 990 is an important tool that donors can use to compare organizations. With donors' ability to compare "apples to apples," nonprofits will not want to have missed out on contributions simply because their response to questions regarding governance, oversight, and accountability were less favorable than those of other organizations competing for the same funds.

GuideStar Survey: Hard Times for Charitable Organizations

Last November, when we reported on the results of our annual nonprofit economic survey, we warned, "Fasten Your Seatbelts: It's Going to Be a Bumpy Giving Season." As 2008 ended and 2009 began, we saw a deluge of news reports about the economy's impact, including its effect on nonprofits. Given the severity of the downturn and the number of stories about organizations adversely affected by it, we decided to do a follow-up nonprofit economic survey.

A New Community-Service Bill: Highlights of the Measure

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law. Here is a summary.

Reprinted from the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Expanding AmeriCorps

Would incrementally increase the number of participants in this national-service program—from 75,000 this year to 250,000 in 2017. In fiscal year 2010, which begins in October, the number would be 88,000. Most AmeriCorps money goes to nonprofit groups and public agencies, which recruit and supervise volunteers. Participants get a modest stipend and an education grant upon completing their service (increased to $5,350 by the Serve America Act).

AmeriCorps would focus much of its work in four areas:
  • The Clean Energy Service Corps would help low-income families make their homes energy efficient, teach schoolchildren about energy efficiency, develop recycling programs, and help rehabilitate state and national parks and other public lands.

  • The Education Corps would provide tutoring, mentoring, and other services to elementary and secondary schools.

  • The Healthy Futures Corps would help low-income families get health-care services and information about disease prevention, as well as provide health services in rural areas, promote healthy living, and fight childhood obesity.

  • The Veterans Corps would provide educational, employment, housing, and other services to veterans and military families.

Promoting Community and Public Service

Older Americans

A new Encore Fellowship program would offer people age 55 and older one-year stipends to allow them to work at a nonprofit organization to get experience so they can move into part-time or full-time nonprofit or government work. The Silver Scholarship Grant Program would provide money to nonprofit groups to operate programs that give people age 55 and older $1,000 education grants if they perform 350 hours of community-service work a year. The grant is transferable to children or grandchildren. Budget for the two programs: $12 million a year.

Publicity Campaign

Within 180 days after the Serve America Act is signed, the Corporation for National and Community Service would be expected to start a formal effort to encourage Americans to volunteer, enlist in national-service programs, or take part-time or full-time nonprofit or government jobs. It may also organize activities to observe September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance to commemorate the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Measuring Civic Participation

The Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship, a group chartered by Congress in 1953 to track civic participation, would once a year measure "civic health indicators" like the number of people voting, volunteering, and participating in civic groups and religious organizations. It would also monitor the amount of charitable giving, interest in nonprofit and government jobs, and "social enterprise and innovation."

Direct Aid to Nonprofit Groups

Financing Nonprofit Innovation

Would create a Social Innovation Funds pilot program to provide money for  social entrepreneurs  and nonprofit groups that are  developing innovative and effective solutions to national and local challenges.  Budget: $50 million in fiscal year 2010, rising to $100 million by 2014.

Recruiting Volunteers

Would provide grants to nonprofit organizations and state national-service commissions through a Volunteer Generation Fund to develop programs to help local groups recruit, manage, and support volunteers. Budget: $50 million in fiscal year 2010, rising to $100 million by 2014.

Management Aid for Charities

A Nonprofit Capacity Building Program would provide $5 million a year for five years to help small and medium-size charities get training in financial planning, grant-proposal writing, and complying with federal tax laws.

Aid for Colleges

Would designate up to 25 colleges or universities a year to be eligible for federal grants to develop programs that combine education with community service or to distribute information about such programs to other institutions that want to copy them. Budget: $7 million a year.

© 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy. Reprinted from the April 9, 2009, issue; reprinted with permission.

Nonprofit Compensation in Trying Times

Setting compensation in nonprofits is tough these days. You need to attract and retain staff, managers, and executives, working within a tight—maybe even shrinking—budget and also projecting what will happen next year. Next, add more federal reporting requirements on compensation on the Form 990 this year. Finally, prepare to explain (and perhaps defend) your actions as other stakeholders—funders, donors, media, members of the public, even clients and staff members—weigh in.

When revenues are down and prospects for increasing or even continuing support from foundations, government, and individuals are not bright, nonprofits have to make some tough decisions about how to spend their scarce dollars. Typically, salaries represent well over 50 percent of an organization's budget, so compensation mistakes can be costly. In addition to the monetary consequences, nonprofits that make such errors stand to lose valuable staff, waste important resources, and, in the worst scenario, forfeit their credibility within their communities.

There are a few basic concepts to keep in mind about compensation in the nonprofit sector:

Do-It-Yourself Fundraising: How to Get Money for Your Nonprofit

Nonprofits seem always to be looking for money. The panic of making budget seems to make raising money impossible without knowing someone rich and famous such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

IRS Updates, May 2009: New TE/GE Commissioner, Tips for 990 Filers, Form 990-N, and More

The IRS's Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TE/GE) gets a new commissioner, launches a series of tips to help nonprofits and tax professionals file the new Form 990, and reminds smaller nonprofits to file their Forms 990-N. Exempt Organizations (EO) is also asking for the public's input on the new Form 990, improving the Charities & Non-Profits section of its Web site, and a new initiative to reach out to academic institutions that offer nonprofit degrees. And EO director Lois Lerner outlines ways to maintain public trust in charities during the economic downturn.

Tired of All the Doom and Gloom? This Is Your Time

Home foreclosures ... job losses ... health insurance, or lack thereof ... plummeting 401ks ...

Millions of Americans are hurting. And the hurt is crossing all racial, social, and economic divides. No one is immune. People who never in their lives have needed help may now be knocking on your door.

At the same time, while demand for your organization’s services is increasing, its ability to raise funds is decreasing.

Tired of all the doom and gloom? Need something to cheer you up? Consider the following: