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GuideStar Blog

From the President's Office, January 2005

Dear Friend:

Like so many of you, my GuideStar colleagues and I are taking stock of 2004 and making resolutions for the New Year. As we reflect on GuideStar's activities last year, we are pleased by our progress in several areas, which we are using as the basis of our goals for the coming months:

  • The database. We made our nonprofit database larger and more useful. In 2004, we added more than 450,000 IRS Form 990 images and digitized information from more than 373,000 returns. We now have nearly 2.5 million images and digitized information from more than 2 million 990s on GuideStar.

    We will continue to enrich the database with Form 990 images and data in 2005. We will also strive to streamline the processes that take the 990s from the IRS center in Ogden, Utah, to our servers in Virginia. And we will look at adding new organizations to the database and expanding the types of information we offer on the nonprofits already in it.

  • Nonprofit participation. More than 90,000 charitable organizations updated their GuideStar Reports in 2004, increasing the total number of Nonprofit Participants more than 12 percent. It is exciting to see so many nonprofits reaching out to the vast audience that uses GuideStar each day. It is even more exciting to know that these organizations have embraced nonprofit transparency and accountability.

    We will continue to encourage nonprofits to update their information on GuideStar. Many of us are already slated to speak at nonprofit conferences in 2005, and we know that the year will bring even more opportunities to spread the word about the benefits of participating in GuideStar. 

  • Use of GuideStar data. The number of people registered to access detailed information on GuideStar—at no charge, thanks to generous foundation support—grew by more than 200,000 people in 2004.

    We developed additional ways to help organizations and companies meet their business objectives, licensing data for a variety of uses. We fulfilled more than 200 requests for slices of our data, and we prepared customized research and analysis for several clients, including the Hawaii attorney general's office. We welcomed several new partner sites, including and the California Department of Justice.

    In 2005, we will continue our efforts to take GuideStar data to new audiences and to ensure that we are providing the nonprofit information people want and need.

  • Increased self-sustainability. Like most public charities, GuideStar can no longer rely on a few grantmakers to support us indefinitely. In order to meet our mission objectives, in 2005 we will continue to diversify our revenue sources, generating increased income from products and services, and relying on more support from the corporations and foundations that use us every day.

    Sales of GuideStar products and services increased 27 percent in 2004. To encourage foundation support, we launched TrueNorth, a membership program for the foundations and corporations that use GuideStar every day.

This year also promises to be an important one for the entire nonprofit sector as well. In February, a panel of experts convened by Independent Sector will deliver recommendations for charity reform to the Senate Finance Committee. (For background on the Senate Finance Committee's deliberations, see "Congress Looks at Charity Reform.") The panel's recommendations will address a broad range of topics: governance and fiduciary responsibilities; legal framework; oversight and self-regulation; small organizations; and transparency and financial accountability. It is difficult and important work, and I am pleased proud to be serving on the Transparency and Financial Accountability Work Group.

I welcome your thoughts and concerns on how the Independent Sector work can best strengthen your organization in providing services to your constituents.

Happy New Year,

Bob Ottenhoff
President and CEO, GuideStar