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

Celebrating Our Past, Looking to Our Future

celebrating-guidestars-pasts-looking-to-our-future-photos.jpgDear Friend of GuideStar,

Buzz Schmidt was frustrated. As a businessman, he was accustomed to having the information he needed to compete for and allocate funds. He found that having consistent information reduced the cost of doing business and made managers and investors stronger and more accountable.

Later as a fundraiser for a major international development agency, and as a donor, he was struck by how little information was available to facilitate effective philanthropy. Without readily available information about nonprofits' programs, achievements, objectives, and finances, philanthropy was ineffective, enormously expensive, and fundamentally unaccountable.

Buzz reasoned that with greater nonprofit transparency, donors could be more proactive and responsible, nonprofits could benchmark and improve their performance, and society as a whole would benefit.

Thus an idea was born. On September 6, 1994, Buzz and four colleagues opened the doors of a small organization that would become GuideStar USA, Inc. Its goal? To gather nonprofit information and make it available to the public so that donors could make better decisions and nonprofits would be more accountable.

The first years were tough. Money was tight, and getting information out of nonprofits was a monumental challenge.

But Buzz and his colleagues persevered. In 1996, they released the Directory of American Charities, which contained reports on 42,000 nonprofits. They quickly put that database online. And then, in October 1999, GuideStar became the first organization to post nonprofits' 990s on the World Wide Web.

Things exploded. GuideStar became the go-to place for nonprofit information, sparking a revolution in nonprofit transparency.

Fast forward to 2014. GuideStar is still the premier provider of nonprofit information. We're proud of what our first revolution has achieved. Transparency is now an expectation, one that the public and (most) organizations embrace. Learn more about GuideStar's history

Today, as we approach our 20th anniversary, we've embarked on a second revolution: nonprofit transparency that drives nonprofit effectiveness. We've outlined that vision in our new strategic plan, GuideStar 2020. We're building the information scaffolding for social change and helping to ensure that the nonprofit sector is capable of tackling the great challenges of our time.

We invite you to read GuideStar 2020 to learn more about our goals and how we will achieve them. We'd value your feedback on our plan—let us know what you think by posting a comment on the GuideStar Blog.

Thanks to everyone—nonprofits, donors, journalists, researchers, government officials—for contributing to GuideStar's success during our first 20 years. We're honored to be building on that history.

On with the next revolution in nonprofit transparency!

All the best,

Jacob Harold
President and CEO
GuideStar USA, Inc.

P.S. Has GuideStar had an impact on your life or work during the last two decades? If it has, we'd love to hear from you. Please share your experiences with us.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice