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Are You Really a GuideStar Participant?

Based on actual conversations with GuideStar employees:

"I need to change my nonprofit's address, but your system won't let me," the caller states.

"Does your organization participate in GuideStar?" a GuideStar staff member inquires.

"Oh, yes, we're on your site, and you've got our 990 and everything."

"But has someone registered your organization with us and completed the GuideStar Information Form?"


And that's the heart of the problem. Just because an organization is listed on GuideStar doesn't mean it participates. Our database includes every nonprofit the IRS Business Master File identifies as eligible to accept tax-deductible contributions. Similarly, we get the Forms 990, 990-EZ, and 990-PF for 501(c)(3) organizations directly from the IRS, not from the nonprofits.

So what is a GuideStar Participant? It is a nonprofit that has registered with GuideStar and completed the GuideStar Information Form (GIF), providing:

A current address.
Public contact information.
A one-sentence description of its purpose or major activity.
A description of its mission.
A description of its programs.
At least one accomplishment for the previous fiscal year.
At least one goal for the current fiscal year.

That's all that's required. A participant is welcome, however, to include more information, such as additional goals and results, Web site address, a biography of its CEO, and special funding needs.

Benefits of Participating

There is no charge for registering with GuideStar and completing the GIF; the only cost is the time it takes to complete these steps. This investment of time, however, carries real benefits.

Some 20,000 people a day come to Guidestar seeking nonprofit information. They include funders researching grant seekers (some grantmakers even require applicants to update their reports on GuideStar to qualify for grants), donors performing their due diligence before they give, reporters researching nonprofit organizations, and job seekers who want to learn more about potential employers.

Adding data to their GuideStar Reports helps nonprofits stand out from the nearly one million organizations in our database. It enables Participants to create complete pictures of their organizations, to provide contexts for the financial information on their Forms 990. And it allows the hundreds of thousands of charitable organizations that don't file a 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF to tell their stories to the vast Internet audience.

Other Participant benefits include:

The ability to update reports as often as needed.
The ability to link from their Web sites to their respective GuideStar EZ pages.
The ability to link from their GuideStar Reports to their Web sites.
The ability to select up to three National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes for their organizations. Ranging from the arts to youth development, NTEE codes classify nonprofits according to mission and help users find organizations by the type of work they do. For more information, see the list of NTEE codes.
Appearing first in GuideStar search results, because Participants' reports are the most complete ones in the database. An icon showing a checkmark—like the ones in this article—appears beside each Participant's name in the search results.
Appearing automatically on GuideStar's partner sites, which include the JustGive and Network for Good on-line donation sites, the American Express card members' donation site, and the Fidelity, Schwab, and T. Rowe Price donor-advised fund sites.
The ability to post newsletters, classified ads, and news releases with their GuideStar Reports.
The ability to receive free Web site development assistance through MSDN Online.

For more information about participating in GuideStar, see our Five-Minute Tutorial for Nonprofit Managers.

Suzanne E. Coffman, June 2004
© 2004, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter.
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