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GuideStar Blog

Church and State Collide in the Nonprofit Sector



Lessons from the Alavi Foundation


The Near Future of Fundraising


The Art of the Arts


New Resource for Nonprofits: GuideStar Exchange Tutorial


Are you familiar with the benefits of listing your organization on the GuideStar Exchange? Are you comfortable with the GuideStar Exchange Form? Do you know how GuideStar’s visitors use the information provided through the GuideStar Exchange?

From the President's Office, November 2009

Dear Friend:

Get Going On Planned Giving

In the midst of our recession there's greater interest in gifts from estate plans, as donors have less disposable income to donate right now. In any economic climate, planned giving programs help build endowments, cement lifelong relationships with donors, and create a long-term stream of income. Here are ideas to kick-start your organization's fundraising with a planned giving program.

Family Volunteers

Reprinted from

Secrets of the Charismatic Organization

Where some nonprofits are chronically underfunded, others can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars at a single event. Their boards are full of energetic, knowledgeable, and connected people. They have grown steadily over the last decade. They are the go-to groups on their issues, the places to work, the leaders in their fields.

Top 10 Year-end Fundraising Strategies to Put You Over Goal on December 31

The fall fundraising rush is upon us. You are probably deep in your year-end fundraising campaign. And this December should be a big one.

Social Media Is Going Mobile, and So Should Your Nonprofit

As the Web goes mobile, so does social media and so should your nonprofit. If there is one thing I have learned over the last 10 years of using the Internet for fundraising and mass communications, it is that the nonprofits that can embrace change quickly, empower their visionaries, and adopt new Web trends reap the benefits of being early adopters.

A Donor's 10-Step Guide to Giving Wisely

When you give to charity, you want to know that your money will be used wisely. Many donors make this determination by comparing what a nonprofit spends on programs to what it spends on fundraising and administration. But giving wisely is both more complicated and simpler than just looking at financial ratios.

It's more complicated because many things—mission, size, location, and age, for example—affect an organization's finances. It's more complicated because budget numbers don't tell you how effective a charity's programs are. Fiscal responsibility is important, but it's only part of the story when you're evaluating charities.

Giving wisely is simpler because it boils down to two questions: "Does this charity do work I want to support?" and "Does this charity do what it says it's going to do?"

Here are GuideStar's recommendations for finding the answers.

Researching Charities

  1. Clarify your values.
    Ask yourself: "What's important to me?" The environment? Education? Hunger? Animal welfare? Helping sick children? Do this before you open your checkbook, volunteer your time, or look at that letter from a charity.
  2. Identify your preferences.
    • Where should the charity do its work—in your neighborhood, region, the nation, or internationally?
    • Do you want to support a large or small charity? A new organization or an older one?
  3. Search the GuideStar database or one of our partner sites to find charities that meet your criteria.
  4. Focus on the mission.
    • Look at the description of each charity's mission in its GuideStar report, on its Web site, or in its literature.
    • Find the nonprofits that fit best with your values.
  5. Eliminate organizations that don't meet your criteria.
    Now you're ready to look more closely at the organizations that are left.

Evaluating Charities

  1. Verify a charity's legitimacy.
    • If you find a charity on GuideStar or one of our partner sites, you know it's legitimate—all nonprofits listed found GuideStar and on our partner sites are registered with the IRS or have given us proof that they meet the IRS criteria for tax-exempt organizations.
    • If you can't find the charity, ask to see its IRS letter of determination.
    • If the organization is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.
  2. Get the cold, hard facts. A reputable organization will:
  3. Define its mission and programs clearly.
    • Have measurable goals.
    • Use concrete criteria to describe its achievements.
  4. Compare apples to apples.
    Be sure to compare charities that do the same kind of work. See if stakeholder reviews are available for the charities that interest you. You can find charity reviews on both GuideStar and GreatNonprofits.
  5. Avoid charities that won't share information or pressure you. Reputable nonprofits:
    • Will discuss their programs and finances.
    • Don't use pressure tactics.
    • Are willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a Web site.
    • Will take "no" for an answer.
  6. Trust your instincts.
    If you still have doubts about a charity, don't contribute to it. Instead, find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work and with which you feel comfortable, then make your donation. More than 1.2 million charities are registered with the IRS, so you have wide field from which to choose.

In the end, there's no right or wrong answer to which charities you should support. There's only what's right and wrong for you.

GuideStar Partner Sites

Several of GuideStar's partners help donors research and give online to charity.

Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund


Network for Good

Schwab CharitableFund

The T. Rowe Price Program for Charitable Giving

GuideStar, November 2009
© 2009, GuideStar USA, Inc.