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James Lum

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Q&A with James Lum: GuideStar’s Impact Calls Deliver Results-Based Information to Stakeholders

Monday, May 11, 2015, at 2 p.m. EDT, GuideStar CEO Jacob Harold, CFO James Lum, and Vice president of Strategy Mizmun Kusairi hosted our second Impact Call of 2015. To listen to the full recording and access the slide deck, visit our Webinar Archives. During the live discussion, Harold highlighted several of GuideStar’s partnerships and detail how they build sustainable collective impact. He also discussed last quarter’s organizational and financial achievements, progress toward GuideStar's $10 million transformational capital campaign, and more. The following is a cross-post by Alex Parkinson from The Conference Board's April 21st article of the same title. To read the original article, click here.

Two months ago, I listened in to GuideStar’s first quarterly “Impact Call” for 2015. The idea intrigues me. Impact calls make sense—after all, companies discuss results with their primary stakeholders through quarterly earnings calls. Why wouldn’t nonprofits use the format to discuss their primary performance measures with key stakeholders?

James Lum, GuideStar’s CFO

James Lum, GuideStar’s CFO, helped me understand more about the calls and what the organization has learned from hosting them. Q: Can you walk us through one of your typical Impact Calls? What are you trying to convey, and what are you hoping to learn? A: The nonprofit sector highly values transparency but our idea of transparency is often relatively opaque compared to that seen with publicly traded companies. Our Impact Calls are an attempt to bring that same level of timeliness, rigor, and openness to the nonprofit sector. The calls are structured like earnings calls in three sections. In the first part, our CEO highlights programmatic and operational milestones, focusing on our impact rather than our business results. In the next section, I discuss the previous quarter’s financial results. Lastly, we open up the call to our audience with a Q&A session. Our goals with our Impact Calls are to get results-based information to our stakeholders in a timely, interactive, inclusive, and comprehensive manner. It is our way to have a direct conversation with our audience, receiving their real-time feedback. Q: How did you determine what impact metrics you should collect and share? A: Measuring our impact ultimately links back to our theory of change, which is based on three imperatives: broad and deep information on nonprofits, interconnected data systems, and mechanisms for feedback and learning with constituents and partners. Right now we are focused on measuring and reporting on the first two layers, data and systems, and we are developing tools to measure results at the third feedback level. Q: How much interest have you had in the Impact Calls? Who is your typical audience? A: Interest has far exceeded our original expectations. We only dared to hope for a handful of participants; our last call topped 1,000 registrants! This is one of our most popular virtual events and audiences have come from nearly all 50 states and even included over a dozen countries around the world. We’ve had people from both small and large nonprofits, foundations, customers, members, the press, and many others join us for the calls. And they come from all levels of their organizations. We welcome anyone that has an interest in our organization and mission to join us of our next call on May 11. Q: How have funders responded to the idea? A: Our funders were important collaborators from the very outset and helped guide our initial thinking about audiences and applicability to other nonprofits. Their support has been very positive and we even had two as presenters on the calls themselves. Mari Kuraishi, our board chair and president of Global Giving, introduced the concept at our first Impact Call and we also had the pleasure of Victoria Vrana, from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, share the news of their $3 million grant to GuideStar. The Impact Call seemed like a natural place to publically announce the grant and Victoria was excited to respond real-time to questions after the announcement. The Impact Calls have even been accepted by one of our funders as a replacement for our standard required reporting narratives. Q: What are some of the key lessons you have learned from the Impact Calls so far? A: The first lesson we learned was that our audience really enjoyed that we made a point in each call to recap our “lessons learned” from the quarter. Being open about our mistakes was important to our organization and it turned out to resonate with our audience. Also, I was surprised by the level of courtesy from our audience. I had anticipated more scrutiny and questions about our operations and finances, similar to the more pointed dialogue on traditional earnings calls. So far we haven’t faced much examination from the audience. For now, our audience just seems happy that we are sharing real-time results and financials with them. Q: How do you want your Impact Calls to evolve from here? A: Improving our ability to track and quantify impact is one of our biggest challenges and mirrors the experience for many other nonprofits. As we move up the learning curve, we hope that the discussions during and outside of our Impact Calls will become much more robust. Hopefully our Impact Calls will also serve as a catalyst for a deeper discussion on the meaning of transparency. Ultimately, transparency is not the end goal. I see transparency as the first step towards, and a prerequisite for, the real end-goal of accountability: accountability to ourselves, accountability to our funders, and, most importantly, accountability to all our diverse stakeholders. The impact calls are our voluntary invitation to everyone to scrutinize us, question us, and tell us what we are doing right and what we should change. The success of Impact Calls depends less on what we do and more on what others do with what we’ve done. Q: Would you advise other nonprofits to follow your efforts? A: Yes! About James: James Lum is GuideStar’s first full-time CFO, responsible for orchestrating multi-million dollar financial turnarounds in cash flow and operating income over the past two years. He responsible for coordinating strategic and financial oversight across the organization and also heads fundraising. James brings extensive experience in content management, distribution, and subscription economics for media companies including the Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones, MTV, John Wiley & Sons, Sirius Satellite Radio, and ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate stations. About the author:

Alex Parkinson

Alex Parkinson is a Researcher in the Corporate Leadership division of The Conference Board. He specializes in corporate philanthropy and sustainability. He is the Executive Editor of the Giving Thoughts blog and monthly publication series and Framing Social Impact Measurement, a compendium report on the practice. Before joining The Conference Board in September 2013, Alex worked as a Senior Consultant in London and New York for corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultancy Context. He has advised some of the world’s leading multinationals on CSR communications and strategy development. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexParkinsonNY.

Another Billion Reasons to Love GuideStar: Our Impact through Your Impact

As we move forward with GuideStar’s 2020 vision, an important part of our work is improving the methods we use to measure our success and impact. And since our primary mission is to serve as the definitive resource for the nonprofit sector, the best way to measure our impact is through your impact!

For the second year in a row, GuideStar asked you what you were able to accomplish by leveraging the resources we provide in our annual Impact Survey. We’ve often heard the adage that there are no stories without data and no data without stories. Your responses to our Impact Survey provide the much needed human, real-world stories that provide context to our own internal usage data. Together, we have both stories and data.

And, just like last year, we are doing amazing things together! GuideStar is a nonprofit ourselves. Every donation that we receive helps power our organization while we work together to build a better sector.

Our survey asked you to complete this sentence, “In the last year, GuideStar helped me or my organization to ….”

Collectively, you told us that GuideStar has helped you …

- Save 1,194,080 acres of land.

- Provide 60,980,761 meals to the disadvantaged.

- Distribute 320,216 diapers to children under 3 in the United States.

- Teach 29,930 children through various programs.

- Save 42.5 million disadvantaged lives across the world.

-Move $1,036,461,414 through the sector. This anecdotal evidence is in addition to the $5.5 billion we know were granted by just the top 10 foundations using our tools in their grantmaking process.

These are just a few highlights of the answers we received. Our true impact is considerably higher considering these were pulled from less than 500 voluntary responses and a tiny fraction of the millions of visitors to our site, thousands of customers, and many other diverse partners.

More stories, more impact

We received many answers and more are included below as a testament to the powerful work that you are doing. We are incredibly proud to support nonprofits as they accomplish great change in the world and we are grateful to everyone that took the survey!

c/o Second Sense


-Teach 5 undergraduate courses or workshops about nonprofits

-Solicit 15 million dollars in donations

-Teach about 250 different programs to funders

-Teach 1,500 nonprofit professionals and volunteers in California


-Secure 23 donors to provide funding for food in Mexico

c/o OBAT Helpers

-Gain 20 more donors and sponsors for students and programs in Uganda

-Teach 800 disadvantaged children in Nicaragua

-Treat 103,826 patients in North Korea

-Deliver 18,000 advice sessions to the disadvantaged in Israel

Disadvantaged Populations

-Provide one-to-one counseling to 2790 disadvantaged children in the four county Philadelphia region

-Enhance the lives of 41,000 disadvantaged in Colorado

-Donate 173,000 “Smile bags” to the disadvantaged in Arizona

-Provide 2,016 bilingual, culturally competent counseling sessions to the disadvantaged in Delaware


c/o Seeds of Literacy

-Help 361 first generation college students graduate in California

-Teach 10,000 blind or visually impaired students in the world

-Provide 2.3 million scholarship dollars to students in Virginia

-Deliver 25,000 solar lights to students across the world

-Teach 1,500 teens and young adults to appreciate the arts in Florida

c/o Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital

Environment and Animals

-Deliver 31 water systems to youths in Vietnam

-Save the lives of 4,230 homeless and unwanted animals in the US

-Provide care to 2,000 injured and orphaned wild animals in California

-Monitor 4 animal rescue nonprofits in Pennsylvania

-Teach 600 people about wildlife rehabilitation around the world

-Begin the expansion and upgrade of an animal facility in North Carolina


c/o Guardian Angel Settlement Association

-Find 555 adoptive families for children in California

-Transform the lives of 1.2 million children by letting them grow, explore, play, and learn through a museum in Indiana

-Advocate for 142 abused and neglected children in foster care in Maryland

-Save 150 children in orphanages around the world

-Prevent 220 children from going to families involved in domestic violence in Connecticut

Health Care

-Deliver 42,800 room nights to patients across the world

-Donate $4 million worth of dental care in Virginia

-Deliver 800,000 health care services to women and children

-Grant 4 wishes for children with a recurrence of cancer in the US

As a nonprofit ourselves, every donation that we receive helps power our organization while we work together to build a better sector.

James Lum is GuideStar's first full-time CFO, responsible for orchestrating multi-million dollar financial turnarounds in cash flow and operating income over the past two years. He is responsible for coordinating strategic and financial oversight across the organization and also heads fundraising. James received BAs from the University of Virginia in Economics and Biology and earned an MBA from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business with concentrations in Finance and Entrepreneurship. James recently won the 2014 Nonprofit CFO Transformational Leader Award, demonstrating excellent leadership and commitment to the nonprofit sector.

Join Us for a Live Special Announcement During Our Third Quarter Impact Call

Dear Friends,

GuideStar Unveils Strategic Vision for Strengthening the Nonprofit Sector by 2020 during Next Impact Call

Like you, GuideStar is a tireless supporter of nonprofit transparency, and yet we know there is still more progress to be made in this area. We know that it takes a lot of time for data and information about philanthropy and nonprofits to travel through and across the social sector, just as we know transparency needs to be to be more timely, interactive, inclusive, and comprehensive. We know this – and we’re prepared to do something about it. We’ve introduced a new avenue to get outcomes to key stakeholders in a more meaningful way: the free Impact Call. Loosely based on the quarterly earnings calls held by publicly owned companies, our Impact Calls are open to everyone and are meant to be:

Register for GuideStar's Next Impact Call

Please join me and GuideStar President and CEO Jacob Harold on Monday, May 12, 2014, 2-3pm ET, for GuideStar's next Impact Call. In this call, we’ll discuss in detail our first quarter results.

James Lum, GuideStar’s CFO

Loosely based on the quarterly earnings calls held by publicly owned companies, our Impact Calls are open to everyone and give you an opportunity to learn more about GuideStar. The call will include our financial and programmatic results, recent developments in our collection of nonprofit financial and impact data and products, and our lessons learned—all in a more timely fashion, and with the ability to question us about those very results.

Our first Impact Call, held on February 24, 2014, was an experiment, and we were incredibly pleased with the outcome. More than 480 people participated in the call, and we had incredible questions during and after the call from foundations, nonprofits, donors, researchers, etc. Our Impact Call was featured in the Washington Post, and there was a robust discussion about the concept of Impact Calls here on the GuideStar Blog. Overall, we felt we took a big step forward in our goal to evolve the definition of nonprofit transparency by providing our outcomes for 2013 quickly, interactively, comprehensively—and inclusively. This time around, we’re incorporating all of your great feedback and honing in even further on the content of our presentation. To that end, we hope you will join us once more as we provide our results in four key areas—financials, programs, new developments, and failures (because all great organizations have failures, and we should all learn from them!)—and give you a sneak peek into our plans for the future.

To register for the May 12 Impact Call, or for further information on GuideStar’s results and outcomes, visit our impact page:

To access the recording of our first Impact Call and all future calls, including the live presentation and PowerPoint slides, visit our webinar archives:

Questions? Thoughts? Please email me at or leave a comment below. We hope to “see” you there!

Join us for the first ever Impact Call: Expanding the definition of transparency

GuideStar led the first revolution in nonprofit transparency by posting IRS Forms 990 online nearly two decades ago. That resulted in greater accountability in nonprofit practice and greater transparency in compensation, program effectiveness, and giving across the sector.

1 Billion Reasons to Love GuideStar

What is GuideStar's Impact?

How does GuideStar talk about itself? Depending on the audience, we talk about our mission (transparency and better decision-making), web traffic (10 million visitors annually), our specialty (IRS Form 990s), or our size ($10 million), among many other operational measures. But we don’t typically talk about our impact.