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GuideStar Blog

From the President's Office, January 2006

Dear Friend:

People—and organizations—do better work and get more accomplished when they have goals, particularly goals that can be measured. In the spirit of the New Year, I'd like to share my thoughts on GuideStar's activities in 2005 and some of our goals for 2006:

GuideStar's Web site. Even without the natural disasters that tested us all, last year would have been a momentous one for GuideStar. We spent the first five months taking apart and rebuilding our Web site, and on June 1, we launched a completely new version of GuideStar. The new site represented our most significant change since October 1999, when we posted our first Form 990 images.

All the hard work of 2005 came about because we've been learning that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to using nonprofit data. We have many different kinds of users and there are many different reasons to use GuideStar data. All users have one thing in common: you recognize that GuideStar information is critical to making important decisions. Look to GuideStar in 2006 to offer you new and better ways to help you meet your objectives, whether they be making informed grantmaking decisions, improving your organization's effectiveness, or achieving your business goals.

GuideStar's database. As part of our site upgrade, we added more than 340,000 nonprofit organizations to the database. We are steadily receiving Forms 990 from the IRS for these organizations as well as for charitable nonprofits. Today, GuideStar comprises more than 1.5 million nonprofits (all of the exempt organizations in the IRS Business Master File), 2.4 million Form 990 images, and digitized information from 1.9 million returns.

We think the best way to improve the quality of our database is by adding relevant data directly from nonprofit organizations. For the sixth consecutive year, the number of organizations that updated their GuideStar Reports increased, from 90,000-plus at the end of 2004 to more than 102,000 in December 2005. Thank you to everyone who updated, and special thanks to those of you who encouraged your peers to update as well. In 2006 we want to gather even more information, from more organizations.

One of our key goals for 2006 is to add more data on public college, universities, and faith-based organizations to the database. Because many of these nonprofits do not appear in the IRS Business Master File, only some of them are currently on GuideStar. The importance of the work they do and the significant proportions of charitable gifts they receive, however, make including them a high priority for us this year.

Transparency. Demand for nonprofit transparency and accountability will continue unabated in 2006. Our resolution is to continue to strengthen our partnership with the nonprofit community to meet public expectations. One way will be to improve our new service, eDocs, that enables any organization in the database to upload its most current 990 (before we receive it from the IRS), letter of determination, audited financial statements, annual reports, and other documents to its GuideStar Report.

The New Year. What kind of a public environment can nonprofits expect in 2006?

It's likely that the demand for our services will continue to grow as our world gets more complicated and demanding. This heightened need to deliver services will require all of us to continue to improve our effectiveness and the efficiency of how we allocate our scarce resources. As our public profile expands and society better recognizes the vital role we play, the demand for transparency and accountability from a generous but skeptical public will also increase.

The coming months will be busy ones for all of us, full of anticipated and unanticipated challenges and opportunities. I wish you every success meeting them. I hope that you will find GuideStar to be a trusted and valuable partner.

Happy New Year,


Bob Ottenhoff
President and CEO, GuideStar