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

Lindsay Nichols

Recent Posts by Lindsay Nichols:

Identify, Engage, Solicit, Steward, Repeat

While annual giving seems simple – identify, engage, solicit, steward, repeat – anyone who has worked in annual giving knows that it is anything but simple. Where and how do you find new prospects? How do you create a case for support that resonates and raises money for much-needed general operating support? How much should you ask for? How do donors want to be thanked and recognized?

Increasing Donations for Charities Has Never Been Easier

In recent times, technology has completely revolutionized the way nonprofits can raise money and engage with their supporters.

Impact Call Webinar Follow-up

Below is a follow-up to a handful of questions submitted by participants during our first Impact Call on February 24, 2014. To read comments from participants, read our blog post here. To view the presentation or listen to the recording of the event, please click here.

Q: Is there a certain component or components preventing [GuideStar Exchange] Gold-level participation? To what do you attribute the significant difference between Gold-level participants and other levels?

A: The main different between GuideStar Exchange Gold-level participation and other levels is completion of the Charting Impact report. Here’s a breakdown of the GuideStar Exchange requirements and benefits here:

Due to the in-depth nature of these strategic questions, reaching Gold may take more time for nonprofits. That being said, Charting Impact remains a useful tool to help nonprofits think strategically about how they will achieve their goals, while creating a concise, detailed report that can be shared with key stakeholders, including the public. As such, nonprofits are taking that step to signify their impact and effectiveness transparency every day.

Find out the full requirements for all participation levels of the GuideStar Exchange here.

Q: What is the main benefit for organizations achieving [GuideStar Exchange] Gold-level status vs. silver or bronze?

A: In addition to signifying the highest level of transparency by providing basic, financial, impact, and effectiveness information, GuideStar Exchange Gold-level participation also unlocks several benefits exclusive to this level of participation: 1 free seat of GuideStar Premium – a $1,500 value – and completely waived Eventbrite Service fees. Of course, Gold-level participants also enjoy all of the benefits of lower participation levels as well. See above for the graphic of GuideStar Exchange requirements and benefits or find it here.

Q: If you are a [GuideStar Exchange] Gold-level participant, have you submitted all of the information necessary for Simplify?

A: Simplify will begin with core information that most grantmakers need from applications. Over time, it will likely expand to include additional information. Nonprofits that already have information in the GuideStar Exchange will not have to add it again. When Simplify expands to offer funders additional information, participating nonprofits will be invited to update their profiles.

So, nonprofits need only worry about making sure their GuideStar Exchange information is up-to-date.

Q: Is there a cost for nonprofits to maintain their profile on the GuideStar Exchange?

A: No! Participation in the GuideStar Exchange is completely and totally free.

­Q: With regard to the 990 and an organization’s financial profile, what actions does GuideStar do when a 990's content appears to be suggest questionable management practices?­

A: At GuideStar, our goal is to facilitate organizational transparency by providing the means for organizations to share information, such as IRS Forms 990. We equip donors and others to make informed decisions individually. Armed with information provided in Forms 990, as well as many other important organizational documents, we believe donors and the public are best suited to make appropriate decisions.

Many people think that we are a charity evaluator or a watchdog. We aren't. Instead, we are a 501(c)(3) public charity that collects, organizes, and presents the information you want in an easy-to-understand format while remaining neutral. Providing nonprofit information to a broad audience at no cost to those users is an important part of our public service, one that we pledge to continue.

Q: What is GuideStar doing to raise the awareness of small to medium-sized nonprofits to potential funders, especially those will little public exposure?

A: The best way for small to medium-sized nonprofits to reach potential funders is by participating in the free GuideStar Exchange. Increasingly, more donors and funders are relying on the information provided through the GuideStar Exchange to make their funding decisions. By providing as much information as possible to GuideStar, small to medium-sized nonprofits signal their commitment to transparency alongside many large nonprofit organizations, helping level the playing field. Nonprofits can then leverage their participation status in promotional materials.

Q: What is GuideStar doing to help small/medium nonprofits to be better equipped to develop data for their GuideStar profile, especially those with little to no experience with evaluation/measurement tools?

A: One tool that small/medium nonprofits who have little to no experience with evaluation or measurement will find particularly helpful is Charting Impact. This report, fully a part of the GuideStar Exchange, guides nonprofits through a series of questions that help facilitate a discussion around strategic goals and objectives for the organization.

Additionally, GuideStar Exchange participants will find informative tips within the GuideStar Exchange platform to help.

Q: What types of innovation will GuideStar take part in with their great cash results?

A: Building on top of GuideStar’s already robust data supply chain, we have an opportunity for immense data innovation, creating new forms of value from our data. Operationally, we will execute this through GuideStar Labs, our cluster of research and innovation functions. We will develop new products, new tools, and new insight driven by:

  • tackling the hard questions about the nonprofit sector – questions of nonprofit programs, performance, and impact;
  • connecting different types of data together; linking nonprofit data to information about issues, interventions, and capital flows; and
  • making things much easier for our users – and integrated into their existing systems and processes.

Q: Are you doing any studies to determine the longer term impact of your work – i.e. how funding has shifted as a result, how NPOs are run better, etc?

A: Our impact can be measured in two ways, how our data is used and what our data is used to accomplish. We are exploring ways to measure the “how” and the “what” aspects of our impact. Historically, we have been pretty good at measuring how, where, and who was using our data.

Late last year (2013), GuideStar conducted a simple survey of our users to start answering the “what” portion of this complicated question. Respondents were asked to complete this sentence, “In the last year, GuideStar helped me or my organization to ….” Using responses to date, we found that GuideStar has helped other nonprofits:

  • Move more than $1 billion of funding through the nonprofit sector
  • Save the lives of 1,000 youth in Kenya
  • Feed more than 18 million meals to the disadvantaged
  • Teach more than 300,000 kids in various programs
  • Improve 52,373 units of housing for low-income people in New York
  • Make healthcare available to 60,000 disadvantaged people in southwest Uganda

These are just samples of the answers that we received. Our true impact is considerably higher since these were culled from only 900 responses, a tiny fraction of our thousands of customers, 10 million site visits, and myriad partners.

We will continue our efforts to measure the impact of our data, tying how it is used to what it is used for.

You can read more about the survey’s results here:

We will continue to try to determine our longer-term impact of our work in the year ahead. Stay tuned!

­Q: What's your take on donors increasingly treating philanthropy as "investments" rather than just donations? For example, do you find that donors are treating philanthropy as they would treat their financial investments in the commercial sector?­

A: Donors are as diverse as the landscape of nonprofits. For some, donations to charity are a means to an end – they want to support a cause, help out a family member, make a more meaningful one-time gift, etc. For others, they think of donations as long-term investments and they care deeply about the nonprofits they support with their hard-earned money. We are strong supporters of both kinds of donor paradigms and are working hard to provide both the qualitative and quantitative data essential to their decision-making processes.

Q: Do you know how many individual donors use GuideStar?

A: We get more than 10 million visits to every year – and 98 percent of that information is accessed for free. Soon we are revamping our navigation so we can determine what kinds of people are coming to our site – individual donors, institutional funders, researchers, accountants, attorneys, etc. Until then, we can’t estimate the number of donors using GuideStar – but stay tuned!

Q: With increased global efforts, how is GuideStar engaging ALL nonprofits (international include) in creating a comprehensive database that is multifaceted to meet the interests/needs of potential funders, donors, investors and partnerships?

A: We are working with Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, and TechSoup Global to develop the Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (BRIDGE). BRIDGE is a system that assigns non-governmental organizations (NGOs), NGO programs and projects, and other entities in the social sector like schools and churches across the globe with a unique identifier, like a “numerical fingerprint” for nonprofits. The BRIDGE project synchronizes data from each unique organization registered in the databases of Global Giving, GuideStar, TechSoup Global, and Foundation Center, totaling approximately 3 million NGOs.

This synchronization makes it easier to share and compare data among databases, providing a more accurate and holistic picture of what’s happening in the international development arena.

BRIDGE is the first project resulting from Markets for Good, an initiative to discover how the social sector can better use and share information to improve outcomes and change lives. For more information about BRIDGE or an update on our progress, check out the BRIDGE blog:

Q: What is the status of your PRI loan with Packard?

A: We are up to date with payments and will have it paid off by the end of 2015. We then have a two-year period (‘16/’17) with no debt payments followed by $600k to pay off our Wells Fargo PRI in 2018.

Q: Can you provide a concrete example of web service hits?

A: A web service is much like an API (Application Programming Interface). It’s a way for other software developers to integrate GuideStar data into their application or website in a “real-time” fashion. For example, on Network for Good's website, you can search for charities. When you click the search button on their site, their application code calls out to our web service to perform the actual search on our database. Every time a call is made to our web service, we call that a “hit."


Tools for Building a Strong Volunteer Program

VolunteerMatch is the web’s largest volunteer engagement network and has facilitated over 7.5 million connections between nonprofit organizations and interested volunteers since its founding. As part of the Community Support team at VolunteerMatch, I work with nonprofits like yours as you develop and improve your volunteer engagement programs. I love seeing volunteers all over the country reach out to connect with the causes they care most about.

You may have already heard that thanks to a new partnership between GuideStar and VolunteerMatch, GuideStar Exchange Gold or Silver level participants can now access VolunteerMatch’s premium recruiting tools at no cost. (To learn more about this and about using VolunteerMatch tools, we’ll be doing a free webinar on March 18 to help you make the most of your VolunteerMatch account!)

Taking your Volunteer Program Further

Of course, engaging volunteers isn’t as simple as posting your open volunteer opportunities online. Getting volunteers in the door is a great start, but it doesn’t end there.

How do you make sure a volunteer is the right fit for your organization? What’s the best way to provide training? How do you make sure the volunteer’s work is meaningful to them and furthers your mission? Is your volunteer program strategically positioned for future growth and success? How do you use social media to engage volunteers? What do you do when members of your paid staff resist the idea of working with volunteers?

VolunteerMatch is here to help with topics like these, with a full calendar of free 1-hour webinars designed to help nonprofit professionals successfully engage volunteers. The VolunteerMatch Learning Center also comes equipped with a variety of resources and tools to help with your volunteer program.

Staying Informed

The world of volunteer engagement is constantly evolving as organizations find new ways to leverage volunteer talent, connect with passionate individuals, use technology, and collaborate. The VolunteerMatch blog Engaging Volunteers, offers tips, news, best practices and stories about volunteering as a major focus in the nonprofit sector. Topics range from tough ethical dilemmas to creating a volunteer program budget to how college students are helping the homeless.

You can also connect with other organizations to share stories and tips through our active communities on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Engaging volunteers and using new technologies come with challenges. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to connect with the volunteers you need and build a strong volunteer program. So check out the resources at VolunteerMatch today!

What are your favorite nonprofit volunteer engagement tools and resources?

Shannon David

Are you already a GuideStar Exchange participant? Don’t miss out on the VolunteerMatch benefits for Silver and Gold participants. Learn more about putting them into action here.

The preceding is a guest post by Shannon David. Shannon joined VolunteerMatch in 2013 as the Senior Associate, Community Support, to support nonprofits in volunteer engagement and to help volunteers connect with causes they care about. She’s a long-time volunteer with 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing center for kids in San Francisco, where she currently co-teaches a journalism workshop for ages 8-11. Connect with Shannon on Twitter.

Our first Impact Call: We want your feedback

On Monday, February 24, at 2 pm ET, we are holding the first ever Impact Call. If you haven't registered yet, we hope you that you do:

What Do You Think?

Before, during, or after the call we'd love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below to ask questions that you want answered during the call, or to let us know what you think about the idea or our call itself, or for anything else you want to say.

We look forward to connecting with you soon!


Why Should Nonprofits Take Advantage of the Mobile Web?

Businesses of all types have recognized mobile marketing as a vital element for future success, and as a result are creating entire campaigns within the mobile realm. Nonprofits can look at these strategies and draw parallels to their own marketing, recognizing areas in which they can update and improve. Here’s a look at some statistics and tactics you should pay attention to and use to take full advantage of what mobile marketing has to offer.

Protecting Yourself on Facebook

Key Questions to Ask When Forming Your Own Grants Review Committee

Why create a grants review committee for your organization?

All too often, one person at a nonprofit is tasked with conducting prospect research, building relationships with grant makers, and writing and submitting the grant proposals. When those proposals come back declined, it’s easy to point fingers, place blame and walk away from the experience without really learning anything.

Share the love for your nonprofit

Please join our second annual #NONPROFITLUV campaign and share the love for your favorite nonprofits! Just:

Leveraging Social Media for Nonprofit Events: Webinar Follow-up

Below is a follow-up by Ritu Sharma of Social Media for Nonprofits and Laura Huddle of Eventbrite to a handful of questions submitted by participants during the January 14, 2014, webinar “Leveraging Social Media for Nonprofit Events." To view the presentation or listen to the recording of the webinar, please click here. You can also read our Tumblr post here.