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

Work Wonders by Redefining the Word “Fundraising” for Your Board

Novices equate the word “fundraising” with “the ask”—the moment when the gift is requested in person, at an event, online, through the mail, or by phone.

Taken holistically, as I make clear in my book What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Do, and Avoid, fundraising is really a cycle of activities that includes identifying prospective donors, educating and cultivating them, asking for their support, recognizing their contribution, and deepening their commitment by engaging them in the organization’s mission.

Given this framework, we need to redefine the word “fundraising.”


Staff Annual Fundraising Campaign? An Open Letter to Vu Le of Nonprofit AF

The jury is out on whether a nonprofit should ask its employees to donate to it. Yesterday’s post argues against it. Today’s post advocates for it.

Dear Vu,

I found your recently penned article titled “Why nonprofit staff should not be asked to donate to the organizations they work for” thought-provoking and see it touched a nerve, engendering a lot of commentary, pro and con. I found the article and the commentary stimulating, hence this open letter.

I respectfully disagree with you, while applauding your taking a stand and beginning this discussion.


Why Nonprofit Staff Should Not Be Asked to Donate to the Organizations They Work For

The jury is out on whether a nonprofit should ask its employees to donate to it. Todays post argues against it. Tomorrows post will advocate for it.

This week’s topic may be polarizing and possibly rile you up, so please stare at the nearest houseplant for a few minutes (apparently, they are scientifically proven to reduce stress). Once a while our community gets into a discussion about whether nonprofits should ask their staff to donate some amount of money to the organization. There are passionate arguments from both the “absolutely” side and the “hell no!” side. (It is very similar to the Oxford Comma debate, although it really isn’t, because obviously the Oxford Comma is beautiful, practical, and magical, and there is clearly no point debating this because #OxfordCommaForever.)


Has the Flow of Nonprofit Data Been Affected by the Government Shutdown?

People have recently asked us if the December 22, 2018-January 25, 2019, government shutdown has affected the availability of nonprofit data. Yes and no.


Announcing the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies

U.S. nonprofits maintained a robust pattern of job growth through 2016, the latest year for which data are available.

But for-profit companies are making significant inroads in key nonprofit fields, cutting into nonprofits’ market share.


Up the Ladder: Career Advancement for Grant Professionals

As the yearly calendar starts anew, you may be busy renewing your gym membership, searching for that lost diet plan, or shopping for a new agenda to keep yourself organized. On a professional level, now is also a great time to pause and reflect on your career accomplishments and goals. Perhaps you are looking to expand your responsibilities or break into a leadership role, but how do you make that leap? How can you ensure that you are adequately prepared for that next big promotion?


The GuideStar Blog Posts You Read Most in 2018

Last week, we published a list of the 10 GuideStar Newsletter articles that received the most views in 2018. Today, we’re looking at last year’s most popular GuideStar Blog posts. Because 9 were also in the newsletter top 10, we’re expanding this list to 15 posts.


Can’t We All Just Disagree?

How many of your board votes are unanimous? If it’s all votes, then you may have a problem. What’s that, a problem with everyone agreeing? Maybe—if all board members agree on every single thing, then do you really have enough diverse thinking on the board? But the way votes turn out is less important than the fact that there are differing viewpoints and periodic disagreements. Vibrant organizations have board members with varied views, which is a healthy situation that generates discussion and new ideas. And “disagreement” doesn’t have to be polarizing or negative.


Do Capital Campaigns Hurt or Strengthen Major Gifts?

Fundraisers disagree about the value of capital campaigns. Yesterdays post argues they do more harm than good in the long run. Today’s post offers a different point of view.

Some people worry that major gifts will suffer in the years after a capital campaign. But it’s simply not true!

Remember, very few things move in simple straight lines. That’s true of human motivation, growth patterns and yes, even the way people give.


How Campaigns Hurt Major Gifts

Fundraisers disagree about the value of capital campaigns. Today’s post argues they do more harm than good in the long run. Tomorrow’s post will offer a different point of view.

Someone is going to be upset when they read this.

Reason: they’ve invested their entire career in campaigns, and when someone like me comes along and says that most campaigns hurt major gifts and are long-term failures, it’s a sword thrust into their soul.

But I must say it. Here’s why ...


The GuideStar Newsletter Articles You Read Most in 2018

A new year. Time for a fresh start, resolutions, and hibernation (sometimes mental, sometimes physical, sometimes both). And time to identify the GuideStar Newsletter articles that caught your attention in 2018.


Keeping It Ethical, Principle 14: The Power of Separation

Have you heard of English Catholic historian, politician, and writer John Dalberg-Acton? Probably not. But I bet you’ve heard his famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Too much power is rarely a good thing. When it comes to nonprofit governance, best practice always calls for governance and management decisions to be made in the best interest of the organization, free from conflicts of interest or other personal concerns. And the best way to do that? Spread the decision-making power, rather than concentrate it in one person or among a few.


Nonprofit Tech Solutions: A Guide to Ramping Up Donations

The new year (calendar or fiscal) typically comes with increased funding goals. However, this doesn’t always have to cause stress! Higher goals should boost your own confidence in your organization because it shows that you are passionate enough about your mission to want to grow.


How Storytelling Can Help Your Nonprofit Grow Its Membership

The new year is here, and with it comes a season for planning. Do your goals for 2019 include growing your membership? Whether you’re part of an arts organization, an association, or local club, increasing your membership base can make all the difference. 

So, how do you grow your membership? 


When Asking Goes Wrong: A Case Study in Communication Failure

Communicating by email and text can be tricky. You don’t have the advantage of vocal inflection as you do on the phone, or visual cues as you do in person.

Not to mention potential grammatical errors—which can sabotage the best of intentions.

For example, “Let’s eat, grandpa,” versus “Let’s eat grandpa.”


10 Measurable New Year’s Resolutions Your Nonprofit or Foundation Can Totally Achieve in 2019

Hi everyone. If this is your first day back from the holiday break, make some coffee and read last week’s pep talk “Welcome back to work, you stunningly brilliant and attractive world-changer, you!” followed by “12 tips to ensure you don’t stab anyone on your first day back from break.” (Tip 9: Take a short walk. To your car. Drive home. Watch Netflix.)

It is 2019, a brand new start! Take a deep breath. What you smell is the aroma of change, of possibility, of hope!


New Research Shows Nonprofit Transparency Matters

New research supports what we at GuideStar have long believed: (1) donors give more to transparent nonprofits and (2) transparent organizations tend to be stronger organizations.


8 Essential Practices for Capital Campaign Committees That Fuel Success

Birds of a feather flock together ... but when it comes to your capital campaign, they’ll only flock well with successful leadership. Your committee chairs must be well-organized and maintain excellent communication.

It’s easy to lose sight of the simple, basic practices that make systems work well when the goals are very big. But it turns out that the bigger and more complex the goals, the more important rigorous attention to essential practices of organization and communication.


Your Group Isn’t Unique—and That’s a Good Thing

From time to time, my phone rings. A nonprofit staff or board member begins to talk.

“We’re in a unique situation,” this person says.

Silently, I roll my eyes.

Or maybe, “We have a unique problem.”

Actually, you don’t.


The Good and Evil Words of Fundraising

Fundraising has two magic words. One is enchanting, the other has sinister force to weaken your writing. When you control these two words, as I explore in my book, How to Turn Your Words into Money, you can wield wizard-like powers.


Underappreciated Elements of Nonprofit Disaster Preparedness Planning

Like ugly holiday sweaters, disasters come in a variety of forms and sizes. As we follow the news of big events like earthquakes, wildfires, and hurricanes affecting millions of people, we can’t forget that a simple burst pipe can seem just as disastrous for a single nonprofit. Yet, because we are all so busy with our nonprofit’s mission, taking the time to create a plan, document it, and practice it may fall by the wayside. Indeed, a new report from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and Portland State University confirms that, despite a high level of awareness of—and concern about—the potential for certain disasters, many nonprofits still do not have a high degree of preparedness for those events.