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Philanthropy’s New Normal

The following is a cross-post of the CTK Blog, written by Bunkie Righter, a business development director at GuideStar. You can find the original post here.

Kony 2012 hits the airwaves, and millions are drawn to it. To do what, I wonder? Share it, talk about it, love it – or hate it, to be sure – but to change the situation? And what is it they would do? Is it clear? Is it right? Is Invisible Children the vehicle to do it? How do we know? I have been fascinated watching the saga, and keep wondering: what will be the outcome? And will it be the outcome intended by the nonprofit Invisible Children? How will we know?

Bunkie Righter

Within the nonprofit world, adopting and employing innovation is crucial, and yet we can be slower to do that than the commercial sector. But adopt them we must, and employ them we are. Today we are embracing new techniques, new methodologies. Today, we are embracing technology to tell the story and as Invisible Children can now attest – it’s a jungle out there when we do. We of limited resources and so much passion must go forth and know that we might be seen and we might be critiqued. And yet, it’s a journey we must take in order to do the job we need to do for our causes. Nonprofits must be willing to take action, and willing to be transparent, and courageous enough to stand in their revolution with conviction and information.

GuideStar’s mission is to revolutionize philanthropy with information. I speak all over the country for GuideStar about the “new normal” in the philanthropic sector. As the need and the method for receiving information evolves, so too does our need to shape that information in meaningful ways that are understood by the masses as well as by our funders. Example: my son told me the other day that Invisible Children spent too much on overhead and not enough on their programs – so even though their film was great, don’t give to them! My son is 17, tuned in, and being educated on how to think about giving at a level that I never dreamed of!

For years, transparency was a primary objective of nonprofits nationwide. Today, a new conversation is emerging – one that goes beyond the limited, and sometimes misleading, focus on overhead and talks about nonprofit effectiveness and impact. Nonprofits need to collect and communicate information that drives confident decisions. They need to present the information in a way to get the most people to use it to think, and use it to give, and use it to drive the action intended – or something greater.

GuideStar today uses a SQL platform and the FAST technology engine to help us get our information to you as quickly as possible. We are currently working in two datamarts to display our information in order to be able, to be agile, and to respond fast to changing stories, and to be able to contain more data. Via our website, subscription tools, and many partner sites, we are accessed by grantmakers, public charities, the media, and professionals in order to research and analyze charities and make sound decisions. What we collect on charities, in addition to information they are reporting to the IRS, is frequently surveyed, interviewed, and scrutinized to make sure that it makes sense for the audiences needing to use it. How we collect it – online and 24/7 – is a process that (though still time consuming) has been developed to be as simple as possible for the nonprofits to use. Today, as in the beginning, we still look at all of that information before it goes live, to check for mistakes and potential cases of libel. We still verify via phone and email that the person claiming the profile of any given nonprofit is who they say they are and has the authority to give us information about their organization. And we are constantly innovating to do more.

Money for Good II Research, which we conducted in partnership with Hope Consulting, details specific information donors, foundation grantmakers and advisors are looking for, and discusses resources such as Charting Impact, a standardized tool for nonprofits to tell their full impact story. GuideStar, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Independent Sector developed Charting Impact in response to this research. In today’s age of shrinking budgets, donor fatigue, difficult government budgets, consolidation and contraction (rather than growth and expansion) across the sector, and the explosion of how we receive our information and who is listening – we need to tell our story. Not just the story of our cause – but the story of our organization. The “era of assumed virtue” is over, and we as nonprofits must provide an accessible way for people to get what they need more of: transparency and accountability, greater personal engagement in philanthropy, and quality information on which to base decisions.

Convincing people to do something is also convincing people (my son and yours) that we are credible sources and credible vehicles for the change they want to see in the world. And if we don’t provide the answers – who will?

Bunkie Righter has 20 years of experience in both nonprofit management and fundraising. During the last nine years with GuideStar, Bunkie has worked in a variety of roles, and for the last eight years in her current role, where she focuses on developing partner relationships and delivering comprehensive data solutions from the GuideStar database for partners and clients. Beyond the distribution of GuideStar’s extensive database through licensing partnerships, she travels throughout the country talking with nonprofit professionals about GuideStar’s role in the nonprofit sector.


May 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

You’re best, Bunkie!

Thanks so much for this great article. It was a pleasure to work with you to develop it as a guest article for the Community TechKnowledge blog.

Many thanks and warm regards from Deborah

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice