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GuideStar Blog

3 Steps to Smart Year-End Fundraising

It's that time of year again! People are out there, actively searching for good charities to support. Sure, some of them just want to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year – but all of them want to make the most out of their charitable donations. Money for Good II research shows that 9 out of 10 donors care deeply about the impact that their donations are having. So how can you break through the noise that inevitably comes at this time of year to ensure that these well intentioned individuals find your nonprofit?

Focus on Results

Focusing on results is the best way to get people to focus on what really matters: your organization’s efforts to make the world a better place. Here are four steps to maximize your year-end fundraising efforts:

  1. Update your GuideStar Exchange profile. Each nonprofit in GuideStar's database has a report—a Web page on our site devoted entirely to your organization so people can learn more about your great work. Most of these pages present data your organization submitted to the IRS. IRS information, however, doesn't always give GuideStar's 40,000 daily visitors a complete or timely picture of your nonprofit. The GuideStar Exchange is an opportunity for you to show your organization's commitment to transparency and communicate directly with your stakeholders through GuideStar—for FREE.

Not only are growing numbers of donors and advisors looking for this information but GuideStar also powers other increasingly influential portals – including AmazonSmile, as I wrote a few weeks ago—and is the basis for the internal research tools many philanthropic advisors and community foundations use today.

Once you’ve given us enough information to reach one of our participation levels – bronze, silver, or gold – display that logo (pictured below) in your year-end mailing and on your home page, include it in your e-mail signature, and promote it in your end-of year appeals to signal to donors that your organization is committed to transparency.

GSX logos

  1. Focus on outcomes, not overhead. Although some donors have been conditioned to care only about overhead ratios—the percent of charity expenses that goes to administrative costs rather than program costs—we know that the overhead ratio is a poor measure of a charity's performance. The Overhead Myth campaign can help you support your nonprofit's investments in sustainability and success, and help the sector move toward an Overhead Solution.
    1. Read the Overhead Myth letter addressed to the nonprofit of America to dig into the steps that your nonprofit can take to help move toward an Overhead Solution.
    2. Print out the Overhead Myth letter addressed to the donors of America, which is under the Attribution-NoDerivs Creative Commons license and allows for it to be shared and distributed as you wish. Include the letter in your donor solicitations and marketing materials.
    3. Pledge your commitment to eradicating the Overhead Myth—you can make your support public at
    4. Spread the word to your own networks using our communications and social media tool kit:
  1. Connect the right way. Even for donors taking a more critically informed approach, giving remains for the most part an emotional experience. It is therefore as important as ever for you to know and to understand the motivations of your donors. Our free guidebook, More Money for More Good, offers a comprehensive examination of individual motivations and donor types. Consider hosting Impact Calls to give your stakeholders real-time, comprehensive, and interactive reports on your progress. And don’t forget to follow-up. People want to ensure that nonprofits are using their donations appropriately. Following up with them on how you have used the funds will help you continue to engage with donors and provide them useful information.

How to be a Super Donor

Not only do you work for a nonprofit, but you also donate to charity yourself. So how do you go about doing that well? We created an infographic with five steps to help donors find the right charities and in the process become what we’re calling “Super Donors” in the process. Please check it out and pass it on!

super donor

Lindsay J.K. Nichols, GuideStar's senior director of marketing and communications, joined the organization in 2010. Every day she builds on its strong brand position as the nonprofit that powers philanthropy and sustains awareness of the organization's mission through dynamic and long-lasting relationships with key audiences and influencers. Lindsay sets GuideStar's marketing and communications strategy and manages a team of seven responsible for executing that vision through external communications, public relations, marketing, media relations, and social media activities. She is the organization's national spokesperson and is frequently quoted in the media including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Philanthropy, NonProfit Times, Dallas Morning News, and more. Lindsay is a founding board member of Youth Rights Agency of Western New York and Social Media for Nonprofits. She earned a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting Communications and Women's Studies from the State University of New York at Oswego. In 2006 she was president of Washington Women in Public Relations. She lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with her husband, daughter, cats, and turtle.

Topics: Fundraising