I'm frequently asked by reporters how to judge a nonprofit organization. They know that their readers are increasingly concerned about whether their hard-earned dollars will be well-spent when they make a contribution. I urge the reporter to save the focus on finances and those misleading overhead ratio questions for later, and instead start with these two simple and profound questions: what is your organization's mission and how are you trying to accomplish it? It's amazing how many organizations can't answer this. Or can't answer concisely enough to avoid a long speech or hammering out a long memo with footnotes.
GuideStar's mission is straightforward: we want to empower people to take action. We believe that enabled with GuideStar data, donors can make better and more confident decisions and nonprofits can be more effective and efficient, thereby increasing their impact. As the 2009 giving season picks up pace, I want to mention a few things GuideStar is doing to help both your organization and your supporters succeed:
Giving tips for donors—we've updated our 10-step guide to researching and evaluating charities. Please feel free to share the tips by linking to or reprinting them. If you reprint them, cite "GuideStar USA, Inc., www.guidestar.org," as the source and drop us a note to let us know what you think and how you are using them.
Nonprofit reviews—now donors can get one more data point and a fuller picture of individual charities' work and impact through stakeholder reviews provided by our partner GreatNonprofits. Written by board members, volunteers, donors, clients, and other stakeholders, the reviews appear on both GuideStar and the GreatNonprofits site. Reviews have been posted for more than 2,000 nonprofits, and more are being added every day.
In addition to helping donors make giving decisions, the reviews help individual nonprofits stand out from the crowd. As part of your messaging this giving season, encourage your stakeholders to post reviews about your organization. It's free. Learn more
Online donation capability—nearly $1 million dollars has been donated to charities through the GuideStar Web site since we first launched our online giving function almost two years ago. Remind your supporters that if they're researching their giving on GuideStar, they can give to your organization directly from our site.
We'll continue to look for new ways to help donors get the information they need to make sound decisions and to enable nonprofits to reach new audiences. In the meantime, I wish you a successful giving season.
President and CEO