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

Telling Your Story to Stand Out

Jessica Walker

And some additional information from Idealist:

Recently, GuideStar partnered with Idealist to present a free webinar, "Finding your Dream Nonprofit Job: How to use GuideStar & Idealist to Find the Right Position." In case you missed it, you can view the full recording of the webinar here and the slides here. The following is a guest post by the Idealist team.

Inefficiencies Still Plaguing NPOs in 2015

A couple years ago we tackled the topic of inefficiencies within nonprofits and its impact on your volunteer relationships. As time and technology have advanced, it seems appropriate to re-evaluate this important subject once again.

Top Tips for Efficient Board Management

Efficient communication with board members reduces administrative burden and frees up valuable resources for revenue generation or service delivery. It can also lead to a more engaged board.

4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Investing in New Tech

Nonprofits have more options than ever when it comes to building their marketing technology stack—from email marketing services to relationship-mapping products to donor management software. And while choice is a good thing, the sheer number of new applications can be overwhelming, no matter how technologically sophisticated your organization is. That makes it all the more difficult to implement the right product or service for your business needs, without blowing your budget. Here are four common traps to avoid as you consider investing in new technology.

The Power of Visual Storytelling

Visuals are powerful. Images convey sense, purpose, place, and emotion ... in an instant. They cause us to react and respond. They spark something deep inside of us.

Sherlocking Trends in Philanthropy


I know! Sherlocking is not a word. But sometimes it's just difficult to find the right word to describe what I am up to.

For the past year or so, I have been very excited about that fact that there are actually trends in philanthropy, specifically in grantmaking, that we can follow. For so many years, there were no trends to speak of. Grantmaking was pretty "ho-hum," never changing, or changing very little. Granted (so to speak), there were a few foundations that did mix things up and attempted to change the status quo, but they were few and far between.

Today, however, things are truly starting to change. We're seeing everything from collaborations and transparency to open data and layered funding become regular topics of discussion within the grantmaking realm. We've also seen interesting trends developing in what some are calling the balance of power.

How do you stay on top of these trends? And what do all of these trends mean to the grantseeker?

Keeping up with trends takes time, and I would know, because I am constantly doing research to stay abreast of what is going on! I try to share a lot of this information regarding trends via my weekly podcast, Talk2020. In fact, I just did a six-part series on the most innovative trends happening, not just in the United States, but globally.

To keep people informed about the latest trends, we're also developing a new area of the GrantStation website called TrendTrack. This part of our site won't go live for a while, but we've been playing with the different items we might include, including having our writers (staff that develops and updates all of our grantmaker profiles on GrantStation) look at trends they see emerging. I wanted to share a few of their observations with you.

One of our authors, Tracey Lease, said:

While updating records this last month, I have noticed more foundations requesting, or strongly encouraging, grantseekers to attend introduction webinars or in-person sessions so that they better understand the foundation's eligibility requirements and guidelines before engaging in the application process. I have not noticed enough foundations requesting attendance to call this a full-blown trend, though I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of this type of advanced communication over time.

Another one of our authors, Sally Morral, noted:

One of the most noticeable trends among philanthropic organizations is support for K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. I first noticed this trend in corporate giving companies such as Northrop Grumman and other aerospace organizations. The focus on STEM tends to lean toward the need to "close the achievement gap" in the U.S. as a whole or in regional areas of the U.S.
What I find among corporate giving websites is that focusing on STEM helps to give American corporations a competitive advantage by investing in a future workforce that will be capable of enhancing and propelling new technology. This is a strategic move, ensuring a larger pool of college graduates with STEM education and capabilities who will be employment ready.
These companies include energy, software, robotics, and the like. In the article on the CISCO Systems, Inc. website, "Teacher Prepares High-School Students for STEM and Cybersecurity Careers," the goal of one nonprofit grant recipient is to "inspire students to pursue careers in cybersecurity and STEM." DTE Energy Foundation gives awards for STEM education programs to "increase the number of college undergraduates entering the STEM disciplines, thereby expanding the STEM workforce pipeline."

It's these "in the trenches" trends, along with broader national and global trends, that we will be highlighting in our new area of the GrantStation website. I'd love to hear from you to see if this type of information would be helpful in your work. I'd also like to know if during your own Sherlocking work, you've come across resources you think I should investigate further! You can e-mail me at:

The preceding is a guest psot by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.

Ask Andrea: What's the best way to improve my fundraising chops?

From Figures to Fundraising: How to apply Giving USA

Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014, was released this morning. The 60th consecutive edition of this seminal report contains good news for anyone interested in the nonprofit world; for one thing, Americans donated a record $358.38 billion to charity last year, the most ever whether you measure the total in current- or inflation-adjusted dollars.

Culture of Philanthropy: Why You Need it; 6 Ways to Get it

When I encounter organizations without a culture of philanthropy, I inevitably find one shared trait.

5 Ways to Get Your Nonprofit Stand Out From the Crowd

Social media is a powerful tool at nonprofits’ disposal, and more and more are taking it seriously and making use of its advantages. By using this tool effectively, you’ll be able to stand out from the crowd and create awareness for the impact you create. But in order to really get the most out of social media, you’ve got to catch the public’s eye and develop a robust and interactive audience that is continuously growing. The following five tips will give you the edge you need to stand out in the social nonprofit crowd:

The Art of Facilitating Virtual Meetings with Sticky Notes

Sticky notes in action

Data With Integrity

The goal of the Community Analytics and Learning team at nFocus Solutions is to support learning that creates positive social change in the youth and community-based sectors. Today, as a way of contributing to the larger conversation around how best to use data and research in creating social impact, we are pleased to announce to the Markets For Good audience, our Data With Integrity blog series.
With this series, we seek to challenge the “we needed better data so we got it and then everything was better” narrative. That story is too easy, and it’s not that helpful for people who are in the weeds of trying to create data cultures in their organizations. Instead, we will be sharing stories that detail the guts and messiness of real, on-the-ground implementation and evaluation, and small wins on the side of actually making progress toward having data with integrity. In addition, we also hope to highlight research-based and conceptual pieces that propose perspectives on what it might mean to have data with integrity in the social sector.

We have three overall goals for this series:

1. Establish a meaning and rationale for the idea of “data with integrity” through first-hand and research-based stories.

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Play a Leading Role?

Derrick Feldmann

Fundraising: handshake or hot potato?

If you boil it down to basics, fundraising is a solicitor asking a prospect for a gift.But usually there is a coordinator involved.The coordinator equips the solicitor to ask the prospect for a gift.This could be upward delegation, downward delegation, or sideways delegation.And there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Do You Really, Seriously Need a Board Retreat?


Reprinted from Tri Point Fundraising

This fundraising question comes from Tom, who writes:

"I can't convince my ED that we should have a board retreat. Can you help?"

Yes, Tom! I can help! Thanks for asking.

First, I would want you to find out what your executive director's objection to a board retreat is? Are they concerned about time? Money? And, maybe they don't see the value or benefit. So let's start there.

Board Retreats Are Different from Board Meetings

Let me start by saying that board retreats should not simply be longer versions of your normal board meeting. They should be noticeably different from your regular board meetings, and have a distinct feel and purpose.

For example, the items that normally appear on your board meeting agenda should not appear on the agenda for your retreat—especially reports! There should be no regular committee reports at your retreat.

And, in order to make them feel different, a board retreat should take place in a different location, if at all possible. But you don't need to spend a lot of money on a fancy retreat location—although wouldn't that be nice! Hopefully one of your board members has a conference room you can use for your retreat. All you need are chairs, tables, an easel, and a few flip charts.

Pros & Cons of Hiring a Board Retreat Facilitator

Another thing to think about when planning for a board retreat are the pros and cons of using an outside facilitator. I'll admit, I'm totally biased on this subject, because facilitating board retreats is one of my favorite parts of my work. But also because I truly believe there are strong benefits to having a professional facilitating your retreat.

That said, here's a quick list of pros and cons, starting with the cons.

The Cons of Hiring a Board Retreat Facilitator

The only con I can think of is the cost. Honestly, there isn't any other downside.

And if you think of the fee of the facilitator as an investment in getting your board and staff more engaged and prepared to help with fundraising, then it's actually an investment in your nonprofit, and you can move it over to the "pro" column.

The Pros of Hiring a Board Retreat Facilitator

So let's get to the pros—three essential reasons to have a professional facilitator.

  1. Get an outside perspective.

    Board members pay more attention to an outsider. They are less inclined to be distracted by work or phone calls.

  2. Staff can participate.

    When you have an outside facilitator, staff can participate too—and don't have to worry about the agenda or personalities in the room.

  3. Experience matters.

    Professional board retreat facilitators are trained and experienced, and usually well worth it.

Board Retreats on a Budget

If you truly can't afford a retreat facilitator, consider swapping executive directors or development directors for a day with another organization, and you lead their retreat and let them lead yours. You won't have the benefits of having a professional facilitator, but you will get the benefits of having an outsider.

Okay, I think I've gotten a little carried away with the whole facilitator thing, so let's get back to Tom's question about how to convince his boss to have a retreat in the first place.

Three Vital Reasons to have a Board Retreat

Remember, there are three key reasons for having an annual board retreat:

  1. Team Building
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Fundraising

These are all critical topics for your board, and an annual retreat is the best place to start tackling these important issues.

Now, if you are only focused on strategic planning at your retreat, which I find to be the case in about half the organizations I work with, my question to you is this ...

How do you expect to pay to implement your plans if your board members aren't engaged in fundraising? You can have the best plans in the world, but if you can't fund them, what good are they?

So, having a retreat to discuss both planning and fundraising are critical!

Watch the Video!


The preceding is a guest post by Amy Eisenstein. Recognized as a leading expert in her field, she's helped small and large nonprofits alike raise millions of dollars through major gift and capital campaigns, board development, annual fund campaigns, direct mail, and planned gift solicitations. Amy's primary mission is to make nonprofit development simple, helping them to clear away the complexity and raise funds much more effectively.

Easy Donor Retention Wins for Everyone


Excerpted from Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life

Whether your organization is huge, tiny, or in between, there are critical steps you can take to hold on to your donors and significantly boost their level of commitment.

In my book, Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life, I discuss a broad range of strategies. Here I'll focus only on six that are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement.

The 3 Keys to Social Media Success

Nonprofits often ask me – What is the one piece of advice you can give to help us achieve social media success?

Looking for a Dream Nonprofit Job? Idealist and GuideStar Want to Help!

Seeking a job in the nonprofit sector? Join our webinar, Finding your Dream Nonprofit Job: How to Use GuideStar & to Find the Right Position on Thursday, June 18th at 2pm EST to learn how Idealist and GuideStar can help you find your ideal position and verify the nonprofit for legitimacy.

Click here to register!

In this event, we will cover how to use Idealist and Guidestar to find and vet a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity; specific tips to improve how you search, advice on cover letters, resumes, and interviews; and general nonprofit resources that can aid you in your journey. Attendees will then have the opportunity to ask panelists their questions in a live Q&A session. Please join us to see how Idealist and GuideStar can help jump-start your career!

P.S: Live tweeting is encouraged! Follow @GuideStarUSA to connect with other webinar participants, submit your questions to the host and speakers, and join the online conversation on June 18th by live tweeting using the hashtag #NonprofitJobs. See you there!

Missed any of GuideStar's latest webinars? Visit our Webinars Archive page for free full recordings and slide decks of our virtual events ranging in topics from Board Development, Communications & Marketing, Fundraising, Social Media, and more!

How Social Good is Becoming a Real, Measurable Thing (and why that’s wonderful)

Once upon a time, the “goodness” of an individual person or entity could only be measured in vague perceptions of public opinion, and “well-being” could only really be measured in terms of financial comfort. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that philanthropy and social welfare have existed as concepts for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, the concept of thinking strategically about social problems is very new, just gaining in popularity over the past few decades. We are still new to this age of organized efforts to improve the world we live in, and though we have not yet come out with one standardized measure of social impact or well-being, we have come out with many different tools for measuring benefit to society and well-being. Do-gooder culture is indeed shifting in favor of us data nerds (or perhaps us data nerds have just been more effective at doing good?). Let’s explore:

The Importance of Measuring Volunteer Impact

Nonprofit managers know volunteers are important, but how can they prove it? Software Advice, a company that helps nonprofits find software for their volunteer programs, joined with VolunteerMatch to tackle that question and more in their Volunteer Impact Report. An analysis of responses from 2,735 nonprofit managers around the globe reveals how nonprofits quantify the work performed by volunteers, and how those activities impact outcomes. Key findings are captured in the charts below: