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

Hospice Care for Nonprofits: Diagnosis and Treatment

How healthy is your organization?

What’s your trajectory? Are you growing, shrinking, or treading water? What’s the energy level among staff and board? Is your mission still relevant and inspiring?

More than a decade ago, I participated in volunteer training at our local hospice agency. As the Great Recession rolled through the economy, I found myself applying the lessons of hospice to my work with nonprofits.

Not every organization is meant to live forever—and that’s OK. In this post, we’ll discuss how to determine if your organization is dying and what to do about it. A future post will cover the board’s role in end-of-life decisions.


International Humanitarian Aid Totaled Nearly $29 Billion in 2018

International humanitarian assistance totaled a record $28.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 30 percent since 2014, but up just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, a study by Development Initiatives finds.


Creating Your Nonprofit’s Future: Why Strategic Planning May Be the Most Important Thing Nonprofit Executive Directors Can Do

If you’re the leader of a nonprofit organization, you no doubt face a constant barrage of demands and opportunities. And the more successful your organization becomes, the more demands you need to field. Your clients want you to provide more or different services; other groups ask you to partner with them; staff members suggest new program ideas and priorities. You are flooded with invitations to participate on committees, respond to RFPs (requests for proposals), and speak at conferences. You also have your own ideas for opportunities to create and seek out. Although this is a good problem to have, you can’t do it all—and it can be challenging to consider all the options. How do you decide which opportunities deserve the valuable time of your staff, board, and volunteers?


Donor Dollars Into Dividends: The Past, Present, and Future of Nonprofits Aiding the Private Sector

Bleeding plant-based burgers were last month’s biggest financial news. Beyond Meat had the most successful initial public offering of any startup since the 2008 crash, and Impossible Foods raised $300 million in venture capital. Both burgers can hold their own in the meat aisle or a fast food restaurant.


The Best Fundraising Consultants in the World

I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that CampaignCounsel.org is the best capital campaign consultancy in the world! We have great success stories, amazing projects, smart-as-a-whip team members, and an impressive scope of experience. To my dismay, however, our company is not hired by every organization that is going into a campaign. The reason? We are not the best consulting company for every project.


Design Your Fundraising for Older Eyes and See Your Revenue Rise

Life is full of transitions, most of them inescapable.

Like bifocals.

They’re inevitable once you reach a “certain age,” which is somewhere around 40.

Since the vast majority of your donors are even older, you can be sure they have presbyopia. Which is to say, they wear bifocals.


Charitable Giving Up 0.7 Percent in 2018, Giving USA Finds

Produced by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018 (executive summary) found that total giving in 2018, adjusted for inflation, fell 1.7 percent on a year-over-year basis, with an increase in giving by foundations and corporations offset by a decline in individual giving. The reports authors suggest that the sharp year-end decline in the stock market as well as the changed tax policy environment, including a doubling of the standard deduction, likely had a dampening effect on giving. Various studies suggest that, as a result of the change, the number of households that itemized their deductions may have dropped from more than 45 million in 2016 to between 16 million and 20 million in 2018.


The Offer in Fundraising Appeals, and Why We Should Take Our Cue from Commercial Marketing

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

In direct response, whether it’s fundraising or commercial marketing, the offer is one of the most important elements for success. Arguably the most important. And yet it’s often one of the most misunderstood.


Using Outcomes to Guide Your Nonprofit to Success

Outcomes measurement has become part of the social sector vernacular. Foundations, nonprofits, and many others speak of outcomes as a key component of successful program design. Before you begin to design your program, you should already have a good sense of what your outcomes are going to be.


Six Ways to Share Your Seal of Transparency

You did it! You updated your Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar and earned a 2019 Seal of Transparency. Now what?


Major Gifts = NO Copying & Pasting ... Ever!

People often ask me how I define a major gift. To me, it’s a gift worth the time and money it takes to cultivate and solicit it.


Chicago Dance Ecosystem Report Highlights Gaps in Arts Sector Data

As the communications and development specialist at Sustain Arts, a project that synthesizes and relays data on the arts sector, I had the privilege of partnering with Candid and See Chicago Dance (the leading dance service organization in Chicago) to publish Mapping the Dance Ecosystem in Chicagoland. This study revisits seminal Dance/USA research published in 2002 and synthesizes data about dance organizations, funding, and participation in Chicago.


How Thinking Like LEGO Helps Boost Your Member Engagement

Last night I was making my rounds around the house before bed, turning off lights and checking locked doors, and then out of nowhere—ZING! I stepped on a LEGO brick. Why do those darned things hurt so much? Like many parents of elementary school-aged kids, I have a hate/love relationship with the expensive, colored plastic bricks. But the evolution of the LEGO brand is fascinating to consider—and it could help your nonprofit keep members coming back year after year.


What’s Your Nonprofit Job Title—Chief Excrement Officer?

I recently facilitated a major gift workshop for professionals from animal nonprofits. You know, animal shelters and rescue organizations. Many didn’t have development professionals on staff. For the most part, the Executive Director was responsible for “doing it all.”

Not only was the Executive Director the chief, cook, and bottle washer, but also claimed to have titles such as:

  • Chief Cuddler (love this one)

  • Director of doing what no one else will do (another awesome title)

  • Chief Excrement Officer (probably my favorite)

It got me to thinking ... can more descriptive, interesting, and friendlier job titles help us in our nonprofit work?


The Mycelium Model for capacity builders, professional associations, funders, and other support organizations

Every year, I look forward to the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Wild Mushrooms Show, where hundreds of types of mushrooms are on display. All are critical to the ecosystem. Some are edible and delicious; others are poisonous; a few phosphoresce in the dark; several gradually melt into a sticky mess. In other words, mushrooms are very much like nonprofits.


Donor Retention: 6 Ways to Create Lasting Relationships

You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.”

—Gordon B. Hinkley

The foundation for a strong nonprofit fundraising strategy is building relationships with your donors. By focusing on building relationships, you’ll see better donor retention over time. Better donor retention rates mean a higher lifetime value for your donors, resulting in better return on investment (ROI) for your nonprofit’s donor communications efforts.


Tidying Up Philanthropy

Since returning from a recent trip to Japan, I’ve been hyper-aware of the chaos and trash that my home city (New York) seems resigned to. It’s everywhere—from overflowing trash cans (often full of items that could be recycled) to people angrily elbowing their way off the subway. But when people and places take pride in tidiness, shared space, and orderly mores, interaction becomes more effective and enjoyable. The same is a helpful reminder for philanthropy in more ways than we might think! To name a few:


Why Corporate Volunteerism and VTO Are on the Rise

Volunteer time off, or VTO, is a popular trend in employee benefits and, as a result, more and more companies are taking notice. But why is corporate volunteerism a hot commodity, and what does it mean for businesses, employees, and nonprofits?


In Search of Peaceful Development

Today Alliance Magazine published a special peace-building issue, co-edited by Candid's own Lauren Bradford. We are pleased to cross-post the editorial Lauren and her fellow editors wrote for the issue. Based out of the UK, Alliance magazine is the leading global magazine on philanthropy and social investment.

Lebanon, Syria, Rwanda, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Vietnam, Kashmir—this is only a short list of the more recent conflicts that have dogged our collective history, yet, as many contributors to this special feature point out, peace-related grantmaking, at less than 1 percent of all grantmaking, seems irresponsibly small.1


Why a Donor Gives Dramatically More

Your organization occupies a box in a wealthy donor’s mind.  Let’s say it’s the five-thousand-dollar box.  How can you leap to the million-dollar box?