The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Much Ado about The Philanthropist

I’m not much of a television viewer these days, other than sports and news, and probably would have missed NBC’s The Philanthropist it if it hadn’t been for the kerfuffle caused by the Council on Foundations. In late June, the COF came out with a statement saying in part: “[THE NBC prime-time program]The Philanthropist is to charitable giving as The Pink Panther is to police work. The show is a romanticized, action/adventure depiction of a powerful businessman’s efforts to find meaning in his life by applying his fortune and acumen to the problems of struggling communities in developing countries. … While some elements may ring true, very little of the first episode conveys the realities of philanthropy.” (Read the entire statement here.)

More on the “New Normal”

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about my last blog on the “new normal”—a term that suggests we may be in for a new economic paradigm for our country and the nonprofit sector.

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.

Trust: The Currency of Civil Society

From the President's Office, July 2009

Dear Friend:

The Power of Voice: Effective Communication Strategies to Weather the Economic Storm

Downturn ... decline ... crisis ... recession. Whatever term you choose to describe the current state of the economy, chances are good that it's a negative and pessimistic one. For many of us, our professional lives have been thrown into a tailspin by reduced staff, slashed budgets, and conservative communication and marketing strategies that are forcing us to do more with less. Where are we headed? When will we get there? Will we be successful? When uncertainty abounds, there is a tendency to stay silent, and many organizations are reluctant to answer these questions and communicate effectively with their clients, employees, and peers. But silence is rarely "golden," and it's important to use effective external, internal, and interpersonal communications not only to survive but to thrive, in good times and bad.

Ensuring a Smooth Annual Audit

Reprinted from Nonprofit Advisor

Adjusting to the New Face of Need

Not since the Great Depression has our nation experienced such a wide distribution of need throughout all socioeconomic levels.

Achieving through Joy

Many people work in nonprofit organizations because they are committed to their organizations' missions and goals. In some nonprofits, positive communication among the staff supports the organization in accomplishing its mission. In other organizations, staff communication creates a roadblock to achieving objectives and goals.

Are You in the IRS Plans for 2009-2013?

If you saw the announcement that the IRS had (fairly) recently released Strategic Plan 2009-2013 and thought, "Oh, no. Something else I have to make time to read," relax. You don't need to spend a lot of time studying the plan. The word charity does not appear in it at all, and nonprofit mentions are concentrated on a single page of the 36-page document. There are better places to look for IRS plans that may affect the nonprofit sector, which are mentioned below. But first, let's look at the big picture.

How Nonprofits Can Benefit From and Promote Stakeholder Reviews

Have you noticed that there are now reviews of nonprofits on GuideStar? These reviews are provided by GreatNonprofits and appear on both the GuideStar and GreatNonprofits Web sites. They are "user-generated" reviews written by people who have had an experience with a nonprofit. The writers are your nonprofit's volunteers, clients served, board members, donors, interns, and other non-paid stakeholders.

Why reviews? How many of you have used Yelp, Tripadvisor, or Amazon Book Reviews in the past month before making a buying decision? If you have, you are like the majority of consumers on-line, who read user-generated reviews of products and services before making buying decisions.

Reviews on GuideStar make it easier for your stakeholders to share their experiences with you so that other people can discover you. Reviews provide a vivid, emotionally engaging, and authentic perspective on a nonprofit. The impact of your nonprofit is visible on a human scale and through the voices of people who have witnessed your work. All nonprofits have stories to tell—stories about the clients you've served, policies that you've influenced, and communities you've made a difference in. This is an easy, fast, and free way to collect those stories for all to see.

Plus, you're getting instantaneous feedback about your programs and services—what your nonprofit is good at and what areas it can improve on. None of us are perfect, but as a sector, we all aim for continuous improvement and transparency.

No Reviews about Your Nonprofit Yet?

Yes, you can encourage non-paid stakeholders—your volunteers, clients served, board members, donors, interns, and others—to write reviews. You can ask for reviews and provide the link to your Write a Review page via:

  • E-mails to your board members, donors, volunteers, and current/former clients.
  • E-newsletters to your volunteers and community.
  • Your staff's e-mail signatures at the bottom of their e-mails.
  • The home page of your Web site—it shows commitment to transparency and excellence.
  • Materials you hand out to clients.
  • Signs in your office.
  • Mentioning the opportunity to volunteers while they are at your office.
  • Your thank you letters to donors—they will appreciate the opportunity to express themselves!

Safeguards to Protect against Unfairly Harsh Reviews

We know that nonprofits value their reputations. We have built-in safeguards to protect them:

  • The automatic speech filter ensures that the reviews adhere to the guidelines for civil speech.
  • You can "comment" on each review you receive. If you feel that a particular review was unfair, simply click on "comment" and clarify or respond to the review. We encourage you to engage in the dialogue.
  • Nonprofits can ask stakeholders who they think know their work well - their volunteers, clients served, donors, board members and other unpaid stakeholders - to write a review about them

A number of nonprofits have found the constructive criticism offered in reviews useful and have changed their operations and implemented reviewers' suggestions. Negative feedback also offers a great chance to ask all of the people who know the positive work you've done to write about their experiences with you. Their reviews will balance critical ones. In the world of on-line reviews, readers understand that there are going to be different perspectives, and they don't expect any product, service, or organization to be perfect.

Perla Ni, GreatNonprofits
© 2009, GreatNonprofits

Perla Ni is the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits.