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

Build a Better World with GuideStar

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, and nonprofits everywhere will be sharing their story and mission, looking to reach as many donors as possible and find new like-minded people to join their causes.

Debunking the 15% Overhead for Good

Can we please stop the management consultants and charity evaluators of the world from poisoning the water with their mantra of 15% overhead? I know they mean well, but constantly harping on this 15% ideal is simplistic and is causing great harm to many wonderful, worthy organizations.

Announcing My Next Book: The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit

This graphic illustration was created by Chrissie Bonner, Illustrating Progress during a keynote talk I did at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference on Oct. 7.

Women in Nonprofits: Then & Now

The author with her daughter Katie, now a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh, PA. 

For a 65 year old woman to be asked to write on Women in Nonprofits: Then & Now seems to assume that I am the Then. The old saw, “you're as young as you feel” assures me that I remain also the Now! But to be given an assignment to think about my life in the midst of living it is a welcome one...and there are both many differences from Then and Now and in some ways, too few.

Never Lose Sight of These Bedrock Fundraising Truths


While some fundraising truths are relative to a community or cause, others are absolute, in my opinion. The three discussed below have relevance wherever you are and whatever you do. You’ll find a fuller examination of these and other fundraising truths in my book, Fundraising Mistakes that Bedevil All Boards (and Staff Too).

5 Rules to Get Year-End Appeals Read

The end of the year will be here before you know it!
Working on your year-end appeal?

Around this time of year, it’s common for me to hear one or more of the following — not just from newbies to the profession, but also from seasoned pros:

  • I’m struggling with copy. Just wish it could be more inspiring.
  • I wish I knew some tricks to get more folks to open our envelope (or e-mail).
  • I’d like to leverage our appeal with e-mail and social media, but don’t know where to start.
  • Wish I knew how to make our call to action more urgent.

If these statements sound familiar, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Nonprofit HR and GuideStar Need Your Insight on Nonprofit Employment Practices

At Nonprofit HR, we help nonprofit organizations strengthen their most important asset -- their employees -- through human resources consulting, talent acquisition, executive search, and education.

For the last 10 years, Nonprofit HR has conducted the industry-leading Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, which studies employment trends, growth and changes in nonprofit employment. The survey includes information on participants’ staff size and projected growth, recruitment strategies and budgeting, staffing challenges and talent resource management, and is frequently cited in media outlets like The Huffington Post and The New York Times.

21 Discovery Questions to Ask Now

Great discovery is the key to retain and upgrade our donors. If we want donors to understand us we have to start by understanding them. Discovery centers on humans favorite subject – ourselves! Statistically people spend 60% of conversations talking about themselves.

Hidden Business Opportunities in GuideStar Data

Women in Nonprofit Leadership

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at Independent Sector’s annual conference in Miami, where I was invited to be the “young professional voice” on the panel, Gender Inequity in the Charitable Sector. When preparing for the panel, I reflected back on my own career, within and out of the nonprofit sector.

Green 2.0 Reports Lack of Transparency about Diversity by Major Environmental Funders, While Many Smaller Foundations Disclosed Data

Green 2.0 announced that one year from their initial call for transparent diversity data – and months after the Presidents of the Bullitt, Ford, Hewlett, Kresge, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Wilburforce Foundations jointly echoed the need for data sharing by environmental funders – a majority of the 40 biggest funders of environmental work declined to share diversity data on their GuideStar profiles. Green 2.0 reports that many funders outside of the top 40 disclosed their employee and board information. This summer, the six foundation presidents co-signed a letter urging their peers to upload data by August 15. The deadline was extended to September 15, 2015.

Free New GuideStar Report: U.S. Veterans Organizations by the Numbers

In honor of Veterans Day, we looked at nonprofits dedicated to veterans and veterans issues. We’ve published the results in a new report, “U.S. Veterans Organizations by the Numbers,” which you can download for free from our website.

More Than Giving Thanks, A Day For Giving Back

On November 11th, Wednesday of this week, Americans will come together to celebrate Veterans Day. For some, observing the day may involve attending a parade, ceremony, concert or other tribute. For others it may take on deeper meaning of thanks and reflection.

Breaking Down Barriers to Expand Data for Social Good

Jake Porway from DataKind and Neal Myrick from the Tableau Foundation talk about their work with change-makers, to develop new ways for organizations at every level to inform their efforts through data.

Using Guilt in Fundraising


Excerpted from How to Turn Your Words Into Money

It was bad enough that I thought throwing a dirt clod at Kevin would be fun. But I made it worse. A group of us were throwing rocks down a hillside, aiming at a rusty barrel at the bottom. It made a satisfying clang when you hit it. Good, clean fun. But you know how things can go with boys throwing rocks.

Five Steps to a Stellar GuideStar Nonprofit Profile

As you may have heard,
we recently launched the our brand new, completely redesigned GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles. Our new profiles display your information in more engaging ways and make it easier for donors and funders to learn about your organization.

4 Mistakes that Doom your Nonprofit's Information Design

Most nonprofits aren’t blessed with their own in-house design teams. Resources are tight, so when it’s time to create an infographic for a report or a chart for your website, the task often falls on someone who isn’t trained in design.

If you’re that person, the task can be daunting. And the results aren’t always pretty.

As the co-founder of a design firm that works with nonprofits, I’ve seen a lot of do-it-yourself information design projects that could have been improved if they had only aimed to avoid making 1 or more of the 4 most common mistakes:


When you’re tasked with designing an infographic or other data visualization, you should aim to organize your presentation around one main point — often something that is interesting or surprising.

You then build your piece around showing that key point and support that point with no more than 2 or 3 sidebars that provide context or related information.

Often, however, those who are charged with creating infographics try to present way too much information.

If you’ve ever tried to navigate a long, scrolling infographic online like this one, you can see what happens when the designer succumbs to information overload. In this treatment, there is simply too much information, and the information is not organized or presented in a way that helps the reader understand its key points.

When a piece has no central insight and/or tons of equally weighted sidebars, many readers will simply tune out.

Contrast that long, scrolling infographic with this one, which is organized around a central idea and is supported by 3 clear sections.


We are so familiar with pie and bar charts, that we sometimes forget that these charts are supposed to be used to accurately and precisely represent information.

When we decorate or alter these graphs and charts, we can skew the presentation of the data they represent.

For example, when we create a pie or bar chart in 3D, it alters the data behind the graph. By introducing depth, we exaggerate the differences between values. A 3D bar chart, like the ones below, forces the viewer to compare volumes when the data is actually being measured by height.

Even a treatment such as the one to the left, which is more visually pleasing than a flat chart, distorts the information.


While many infographics have far too much information, there are almost an equal number that convey almost no data but take up a lot of space.

Common Problems with Infographics

This often happens when the creators forget to ask themselves if they really needed an infographic in the first place.

When you create an infographic, if a chart – or even a sentence – would tell the story more effectively, you wind up with a lot of noise and almost no useful information.

By trying to be cute, this piece uses a lot of real estate to do what a few vertical lines or even a sentence would have done much better.


Infographics should be thoughtful in the presentation of data. While it’s understandable that people want to liven these pieces up to grab attention, flash shouldn’t come at the cost of making the information easily accessible.

This piece, for example, organizes the carbon footprints of various countries to make the shape of a foot. While the designers surely felt that was an important tie into to the idea of a footprint, the presentation makes it difficult for viewers to understand the data it is trying to convey.

Viewers would be able to make far more interesting observations of the data if it were organized in a number of other ways such as by physical geography, size, or growth rates.

The preceding post originally appeared on the Social Media for Nonprofits blog, click here to read. About the author: Matthew Scharpnick is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Elefint Designs, a strategic design studio that works with good causes. Combining strategy with design, Elefint helps nonprofits, NGOs and other social sector organizations tell compelling stories and achieve greater impact. Matthew specializes in branding, design strategy, storytelling, and data visualization.

3 Unique Ways Your Current Donors Can Help You Acquire New Donors with Social Media

 Imagine there is a new, hit show on TV. You’ve vaguely heard about it, but you haven’t seen it yet and you’re not sure if you will.

One day, you’re in line at the bank and the person in front of you is raving about how talented the leading actress is. You make a note in your head to watch the show, but you don’t add it to your DVR quite yet. The next afternoon, your friend won’t stop talking about the show at lunch. Now you just have to check it out.

Top Giving Tuesday Strategies and Resources

Where has 2015 gone? We only have a few more months left, and 2016 is just around the corner!

But before you start buying new calendars and making those important resolutions, make sure your nonprofit is taking advantage of all of the strategies and resources that can help you generate more revenue with Giving Tuesday!