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

Foundations and Transparency in the World of Open Data


Reports of yet another fraudulent celebrity foundation have hit the news recently, this time for former Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle’s Jared Foundation. Fogle claimed the foundation, founded in 2004, would distribute $2 million in grants to schools and community organizations to help fight obesity, which Fogle overcame after losing 245 pounds from eating Subway subs. According to USA Today, the foundation has not issued a single grant out of the originally proposed amount. In fact, multiple reports claim that the foundation spent barely a fraction of the money it collected toward Fogle’s original mission. Additionally, according to IRS records from 2009 to 2013, 26 percent of the Jared Foundation’s money remains unaccounted for, says CBS News.

Fundraising Meets the Power of Peer-To-Peer Campaigns


This guest post is from Derrick Feldmann, president of Achieve, a research agency for causes, and lead of the national research team The Millennial Impact Project.

5 Ways Every Nonprofit Can Be Donor-Centric

Over the last few months I have heard the terms “donor-centric” and “donor-centricity” being tossed around in various discussions, conference presentations and even a few blog posts like this one.

The Challenges of Junior Boards (pt 2 of 3)

In my previous blog post, I discussed the origins of junior boards and the reasons they are ‘trending.’ I also discussed the fundraising potential behind the idea. However, no fundraising tool is perfect. There are challenges to consider before going all in on a junior board.

3 Tips for Matching Gifts Every Nonprofit Needs in 2016

Isn’t it hard to believe that 2015 is nearing its end? It seems like just yesterday we were all counting down to the new year and saying goodbye to 2014. Where does the time go?

So Where Are All Those High-Paid Charity CEOs?

To celebrate the release of our 2015 Nonprofit Compensation Report (download here), we asked Linda Lampkin from ERI Economic Research Institute to join us on the blog to discuss executive compensation. Welcome, Linda!

Short on Time to Volunteer?

Donating money is as easy as sending a text message on your cell phone. Sometimes that donation just doesn’t seem like enough. You’d like to do more to help your local community or make a difference to the world at large. But time is short, and a commitment to a long-term volunteer job may seem daunting.

Handling the Difficult Donor

It’s late. I’m about to turn off my computer and leave work for the night when he calls.He’s one of my top donors.I asked him for a six figure gift a month ago.He’s called every week since.First he wanted to know how much revenue we made from our recent event after expenses.Next he wanted a report documenting how many of our students went on to a four year college and what their majors were.Tonight he’s asking for a detailed expense analysis calculating the cost per student for each program we offer.

A Trending Fundraising Tool: A Junior Board (pt 1 of 3)


Six years ago, the phrase “junior board” was understood by only a few. Now, I hear it all the time. I work at a nonprofit consulting firm, Orr Associates, Inc (OAI). OAI works exclusively with nonprofits to help them with their fundraising and development needs. Our nonprofit partners consistently tell us they struggle to engage with Millennials. Many of them have been building junior boards to serve as a solution.

How Headlines Can Save Human Civilization and Your Fundraising


Headlines are the most important words you write. Advertising legend David Ogilvy put it this way: "On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar."

Early Trends in the 2015 State of Grantseeking


Scientia est quaedam potentia intelligentisknowledge is power—and accurate and timely data can provide you with the knowledge you need for organizational planning, development, and budgeting. It can help you manage expectations—board member expectations, donor expectations, etc.—by providing real-world benchmarks.

Ask Andrea: A Great Way to Get Your Major Donors to Meet with You

Do you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

How to Increase Your Social Media Reach by Incentivizing Your Supporters


Whether or not your nonprofit is already plugged in to social media—and if it's not, it should be—there is always room for growth in terms of your org's sphere of influence. How you go about achieving that growth can have varying degrees of impact on your resources.

7 Key Findings from GuideStar’s 2015 Nonprofit Compensation Report

Today, GuideStar published the 15th addition of our annual Nonprofit Compensation Report, the only large-scale analysis of its kind based entirely on data reported to the IRS, and the most comprehensive nonprofit compensation study available.

Why Nonprofits Deserve CRM Innovation

Charitable giving, according to Destination CRM, has exceeded $298 billion in the US alone. In his article ‘ Why Nonprofits Deserve CRM Innovation‘, Gabe Cooper calls for software companies to give nonprofits the attention they deserve by creating technology that suits their needs.

Philanthropy is driven by personal connections – donors donate to the causes that speak to them on an emotional level. For modern nonprofits, this takes place on an extremely large scale, and in order to compete effectively they need to create hundreds of these connections to build relationships to fund their causes. For them, nonprofit CRM or ‘donor management software’ is crucial – but innovation in this space is often lacking.

The Hottest Season Yet—For Fundraising


Once upon a time, charities would send out a year-end appeal … by mail … in late November. And that was their entire fundraising effort.

In an era of ice-bucket challenges, crowdfunding, and nonstop digital solicitation, is a bulk-rate mailing to your list really enough? Of course not. You need to stand out on multiple platforms and meet a heightened set of donor needs and expectations.

Fortunately, many donor engagement techniques that have traditionally been successful can set you apart in a crowded and increasingly complicated fundraising environment.

With all of the emphasis on online year-end solicitation, nonprofits often neglect the most important ways to build donor loyalty and increase giving. For example: In the waning days of 2013, I made gifts to a number of organizations online. Some provided only a digital receipt. Others took weeks to send a paper letter. Two never acknowledged the gifts in any way. Only one provided a personalized postscript.


Twice a year, every year, we at GrantStation survey individuals associated with grant seeking in nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, government entities, and independent grant-writing shops, to quantify early trends in the world of funding. The most recent data reflects activity from July to December 2014, and the resulting reports, and the benchmarks contained within, can assist you as you navigate the increasingly bumpy waters of grant seeking.

A new $10,000 a year donor is calling – will your nonprofit take the call – or put them on hold?

Your first reaction: of course they will take the call! But surprisingly, many nonprofits don’t take the call when that new donor is a potential board member. Is your nonprofit one of the many that isn’t responding promptly to every potential new donor that calls? How could that even happen?

990s and the Future of Nonprofit Data: Impact Call Follow-up

On August 10th, 2015 GuideStar hosted its quarterly Impact Call-- we discussed what the new IRS 990 rules mean for the sector, our quarterly financials, and unveiled our new video that tells GuideStar's story in 90 seconds. Our goal for Impact Calls is not simply to report our results but to jump-start the conversation on how transparency is defined and conveyed across the sector.

To view our latest Impact Call, visit our Youtube page, or download our slides here. To see our latest video, simply visit our homepage.

There were several follow-up questions people asked during the call, so let's dive in!

We are a new 501(c)3 and would like to enter information on GuideStar. Is there a fee for service to register information on GuideStar?
No! Every tax-exempt nonprofit registered with the IRS already has a profile on GuideStar, but many only have information from their organization’s IRS records—that is, until they take the free opportunity to update their Nonprofit Profile. This ability to take control of your organization’s profile is something that we believe really empowers nonprofits to tell a stronger story about the causes they care about and why, so we encourage you to update your information today!

I am interested in learning more about the revised 990 filing IRS guidelines and regulations. What is my best way to obtain materials on this topic?
Here are several resources we've compiled that can help you in this process:
- This article by the Chronicle of Philanthropy helps summarize the recent changes and what they mean for nonprofits.
- The IRS's Annual Reporting & Filing page offers resources on how to complete the form, the current year's forms and schedules, and more.
- Linda Lampkin blogs on the topic for the Economic Research Institute.

Are you going to build in some algorithmic functionality where nonprofits can get a list of potential collaborators? Is the potential for finding partnerships which was mentioned in this webinar something that Guidestar supports, or generally informs?
We’re looking to include a variety of data science techniques in future iterations, including algorithms. We believe this functionality will further collaboration between nonprofits, foundations, and others.

Our organization has a GuideStar profile that was created and managed by someone who is no longer with our company. How do we regain control of the account?
If your previous GuideStar Profile manager is no longer with the organization, please request permissions, by following the instructions below to become the new or additional manager on your organization’s GuideStar account:

  1. Please sign in or create an account with an e-mail associated with your organization on
  2. Click on the ‘Update Nonprofit Profile’ link on the home page.
  3. Click “Get Started Now”
  4. Enter your organization’s EIN number.
  5. Click on “Request Permissions”.
  6. Complete the request form.
  7. Click “Submit Request”.

Should you run into any troubles, you can email

Courtney Cherico

The preceding post is by Courtney Cherico, GuideStar's content marketing associate. She manages their many social media channels, including this blog. Courtney is a graduate from the University of Mary Washington, where she majored in English with a creative writing concentration. You can reach Courtney at, or follow her on Twitter @courtneycherico. To stay up to date on the latest GuideStar news, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Donors Want to Know: Why Your Organization?


Excerpted from The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks & the Answers All Donors Crave

Mrs. Steele was called to jury duty but declined to serve, stating, "I don't believe in capital punishment."

The judge explained. "Madam, this isn't a murder trial," he said. "It's simply a case in which a woman is suing her husband. He's accused of taking the $5,000 she gave him to buy a diamond necklace and donating it to charity."

"I'll serve," agreed Mrs. Steele. "I could be wrong about capital punishment."

How quickly our minds can change when we get more information.

To the question "Why should I be interested in your particular cause?" many have a ready answer. "Because we do good work," they say. Undoubtedly true, but countless organizations do good work.

As I make clear in my book, The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks, you need to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other great causes.

I often ask people attending my workshops to tell me their unique selling proposition (USP). What is the one thing that sets their respective organizations apart from all the others?

Your USP could be many things: your history, your leadership, your accomplishments, your low administrative costs, even the nature of your appeal (e.g., "Your gift of $25 will save an area of the Amazon Rainforest forever").

Dig deep enough, and every organization has a distinguishing feature.

But, funny enough, in many cases your greatest asset is one you haven't thought much about, even though it's a big reason people might choose to support you.

Your stories.

When your organization is involved in helping people create art, protect the environment, support human rights, or research diseases, you create stories.

And stories can be yours alone.

  • "I'm writing to you because 11 years ago the Crisis Hotline saved my daughter's life. She's now happily married and has a good job. It's because of you and other generous donors that so many desperate people in our community have someone to turn to."
  • "I remember it vividly," says Dr. Ken Baum, a glaucoma specialist at Kaiser Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, when asked about his first Seva Mobile Eye Camp. "We were in Tibet and drove for five days to reach an older woman who was completely blind from cataracts," Ken recalls. "We did the surgery, and the next day when she took off the patch she burst into tears. She saw her grandchildren for the first time. I'll never forget that."
  • "I gave up a lucrative vet practice because I saw how animals were suffering in our state and knew I had to do more. That's why I founded this organization."

People remember stories. They forget facts. Even decades later I still recall stories that motivated me to give to various causes.

This is the gift you offer to your donors—a concrete, memorable, emotional experience of helping others.

This is why your particular organization deserves support.

And you don't need epic drama to touch your donors. A simple heartfelt conversation is still one of your mightiest tools.

Elizabeth Crook was chair of the Nashville YWCA board and felt a desperate need to expand the domestic violence shelter. The municipal government had agreed to give the YW land if the organization would double the shelter's capacity. To be successful, Elizabeth knew she'd have to reach far beyond their current donor base.

Because Nashville is a center of corporate healthcare, there are scores of wealthy entrepreneurs in the area. Elizabeth's challenge, and the key to her success, was to find a way to secure some of this "new money."

She identified as one of her potential donors a very nice fellow, close to 50, never married. On the day they met, he turned the tables on Elizabeth with his very first question. "So what about this organization interests you?" he wanted to know.

For Elizabeth that was easy. She explained how it was a cause that appealed to her heart. She felt there was a real need. And she thought the YW provided this service better than anyone.

Then Elizabeth turned to the man. "And what is near and dear to your heart?" she asked.

At first the man was caught off guard.

"Children," he replied after a long pause, "especially children who've had challenging situations at home. When I was growing up, it was the Boys and Girls Club that gave me a place to be. If it hadn't been for them, I don't know how my life would have turned out."

With that story in hand it was easy for Elizabeth to focus his visit to the shelter on the high percentage of women who come into the shelter with children, the quality of the YW's programs for these youngsters, and the fact that 70 percent of men in the state prison grew up in violent homes.

The man was clearly moved by the women he met and the stories he heard. He pledged $100,000, an extraordinary gift from a first-time donor. And it all happened because Elizabeth took time to find out what touched his heart and presented her cause in a way that matched his values.

Elizabeth's question to her prospect is what I would call a killer question. Whose heart wouldn't open and expand when asked that simple, sincere, and disarming inquiry, "What is near and dear to your heart?

Other Excerpts from This Book

The preceding is a guest post by Harvey McKinnon, one of North America's leading fundraising experts and president of the Vancouver/Toronto-based fundraising consultancy Harvey McKinnon Associates. In addition to The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave, his works include Hidden Gold (Taylor); the audio CD How Today's Rich Give (Jossey-Bass); Tiny Essentials of Monthly Committed Giving (White Lion Press); and (as co-author) the international bestseller The Power of Giving (Tarcher/Penguin), which was selected as an Amazon Best Book for 2005.

Six Power Tips for Great Meetings in Today's Virtual World


Meetings aren't what they used to be. Thanks to the power of the Internet, more often than not, some people are in the room and others are on the phone or participating through a virtual meeting platform online.

5 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Facebook

We all know how popular Facebook continues to be, among all age groups and income levels. Pew Internet reported in January of this year that for the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use Facebook. This represents 31% of all seniors.

In order to be successful on Facebook, you know that you need to be posting helpful and informative content, eye-catching and compelling visuals & photos as well as funny and entertaining videos. This is just Facebook 101.

In recent weeks there have been several announcements about features to the social network that you may not know about – features that could directly affect your marketing efforts.

So here are my 5 most recent things – some good, some bad, some both – that I bet you didn’t know about Facebook:

1) iPhone users have more control over their News Feed now.

On my birthday, July 9th, Facebook gave me a little birthday present – they announced that users are now going to be able to have more direct control over what they see in their News Feed.

This will have a HUGE impact on nonprofits and brands that use Facebook for marketing purposes. It may be a good thing, because previous iterations of the News Feed relied on Facebook’s mysterious algorithm EdgeRank to determine what showed up when you logged on.

Currently this update is only available to iPhone users. To activate it, go to the Facebook app on your phone, tab the “More” icon – in the lower-right corner of the News Feed. Then scroll to “News Feed Preferences” and select “Prioritize Who to See First.” Let me know what you think of this update in the comments!

2) Facebook controls the news. Literally.

Did you know that almost half of all Internet users in the U.S. use Facebook to find news about government and political issues?

In a study published last week, Pew Internet found that 63% of Facebook users say they use their accounts “to find and read articles.” Right now, EdgeRank (Facebook’s News Feed algorithm)determines the news content that you are most likely to read – and the more you click these same types of articles, or engage with these same sources, the more content you will see from those same Pages. Some people may like this, but it reduces the diversity and variety of news that you see in your News Feed, which in my opinion is a bit disconcerting.

Facebook also features a “Trending News” sidebar on the right of your screen where they post the most-shared news on the site at that moment. However, the Trending News sources tend to be stories by publishers using Facebook Instant (publishing directly inside Facebook). Publishers from all different walks of life and agendas are having issues with this filtering.

3) Native videos are the most popular content on Facebook.

You may have been told that photos or even links get the most reach and engagement – but the content that works best on Facebook is native videos. Native video just means a video directly uploaded to Facebook, rather than a link shared from YouTube, Vimeo, or another source.

Once you start uploading native videos, make sure your Page is using the Facebook Video tab. Within the Video tab, highlight a featured video that will be pinned to the top in an extra-large format! As an added bonus, this featured video can have text that includes hyperlinks and a dedicated comment stream. Mari Smith uses this kind of video feature for live webinars and Q&A sessions.

Facebook says that there has been an almost 400% increase in video published by Pages over the past year! So get with the program!

4) Just watching a video counts as an interaction.

Normally on Facebook, in order to count as “engagement”, a post must be liked, commented on, clicked on (if it’s a link) or shared. However, Facebook now recognizes that people may be watching videos passively but not actively liking or sharing them. In a recent blog post, they wrote:

For example, you may have found a video from a nonprofit you follow on Facebook to be really informative and you’re glad you saw it but it’s not something you felt inclined to like, comment on or share more broadly.

Interactions that they count and measure now include turning on the sound of the video and/or enlarging the video to full screen. Both of those actions, while somewhat passive, will indicate to Facebook that you are interested in that type of content, and they will use it to help determine future videos to display on your News Feed.

5) Soon you will be able to scroll and watch videos at the same time.

Feel like watching a video, but still want to scroll your News Feed at the same time? Facebook will soon be offering a feature that will let you pop out the video you are watching, so you can continue scrolling.

This is important for marketers because we will need to make our videos even MORE attention grabbing and enticing to Facebook users, to keep their attention!

In conclusion, Facebook looks like it is here to stay. While it is definitely not my favorite social network, it is vitally important to use it strategically to see results. Paying attention to the changes and the new features will help you stay ahead of your competition and make the best use of your time spent on the platform. Good luck!

How are you using Facebook for marketing? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The preceding is a cross post by Julia Campbell, founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, a boutique digital marketing agency based in Beverly, MA. Julia received her degree in Journalism & Communications from Boston University and earned a Master in Public Administration from Old Dominion University as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Tidewater Community College. A Beverly native, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, a mother and a social media marketing specialist, Julia helps nonprofits connect with supporters by effectively harnessing the power and potential of online marketing and social media tools. Julia’s clients include small community-based nonprofits and large universities. She also offers one-on-one coaching sessions, group seminars and college courses. Her blog was named one of the Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world and she is included in the Top 40 Digital Strategists in Marketing for 2014. Julia has been featured on Maximize Social Business,, MarketWatch, Alltop, Salon, Social Media Today, Forbes and Business 2 Community.

Money for Good 2015: There’s $22 Billion Up for Grabs

Money for Good 2015 is out today, and, like its two predecessors, it offers plenty of food for thought.

Published by the Camber Collective (the result of the merger between Hope Consulting and SwitchPoint LLC), Money for Good 2015 examines donors’ motives for charitable giving and what they mean for philanthropy overall.