September 21, 2001—Like people throughout the nation, we at GuideStar have wondered what we can do to help in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. We have concluded that the most valuable contributions GuideStar can make are to:
- provide information to the nonprofit community;
- help organizations directly affected by the attacks update their information on GuideStar;
- encourage nonprofits to include information about their relief efforts in their GuideStar Reports; and
- expand the GuideStar database to include (1) the many September 11 funds and programs that existing organizations are creating and (2) all 501(c) organizations to which contributions may be tax deductible.
On Friday, September 14, GuideStar data services manager Bunkie Righter saw a list serv message inviting technology assistance providers to help nonprofits in the World Trade Center area "deal with their immediate and long-term technology needs." The message was from Stephanie Creaturo, senior manager of workforce development for NPower NY, a nonprofit dedicated to "putting technology in the hands of nonprofits."
Righter was able to send Creaturo a preliminary list of nonprofits located in lower Manhattan that afternoon. Since then, she has been working with GuideStar database administrator Rich Paradis and director of projects and contracts Allen Whitehead to refine and enhance the list. Righter and nonprofit services coordinator Karen Rayzor are contacting other New York-area nonprofit associations and organizations to offer this information to them as well.
At least 53 nonprofits were located in World Trade Center Buildings 1 and 2, and some 1,900 charitable organizations have addresses in the 15 zip codes around the World Trade Center. Many organizations lost their databases and computer systems when they had to evacuate without shutting down their systems properly. GuideStar has offered to provide information to help these nonprofits rebuild their databases.
Usually, nonprofits complete an online form to update their reports on GuideStar. Because so many organizations in the New York area still do not have access to computers or the Internet, GuideStar's Customer Service Department will enter their information for them. Organizations that need help updating their reports can contact Customer Service at 1-800-784-9378.
Supplies, funds, and volunteers from around the country poured into New York and Virginia immediately after the attacks. Across the United States, nonprofits are establishing special funds or programs to support the recovery efforts and help people deal with the long-term effects of the assaults. Because donors may not realize that organizations in their own communities are responding to these needs, GuideStar is encouraging nonprofits to update their information on GuideStar and to mention specifically any activities they are undertaking as a result of the events of September 11.
Because of inquiries from concerned donors, GuideStar is adding to the database new disaster-relief funds and programs that existing nonprofits have started in direct response to the September 11 strikes. Each of these initiatives is clearly identified as a project of a legitimate nonprofit already in the GuideStar database.
It is important to note that the GuideStar site includes only those nonprofits that have been classified as tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service and faith-based organizations that have provided a listing from their official church directory. (Faith-based organizations are automatically tax exempt and are not required to file with the IRS.)
Faith-based organizations can fax their directory listing to GuideStar at (757) 229-8912 or mail it to:
Philanthropic Research, Inc.
4801 Courthouse Street
Williamsburg, VA 23188
New nonprofits awaiting an IRS ruling on their request for nonprofit status can register with GuideStar and complete the GuideStar Information Form, but their information will appear on the site only after they receive an official IRS letter of determination and have provided a copy of it to GuideStar. New organizations can use the fax number or mailing address in the previous paragraph to send their documentation to GuideStar.
Expanding the Database to Include All 501(c) Nonprofit Organizations to Which Contributions May Be Tax Deductible
Until now, only 501(c)(3) charitable organizations—public charities and private foundations—have been included in the GuideStar database. Donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are tax deductible, although a few public charities and private foundations do not accept contributions.
Other types of tax-exempt organizations, such as police and firefighter associations, fall outside the 501(c)(3) category. Because many of these nonprofits have been involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, GuideStar has accelerated plans to expand the kinds of organizations in the database. The database now comprises all 501(c) nonprofit organizations to which contributions may be tax deductible; with the addition of these nonprofits, the number of organizations in the database now totals more than 850,000.
The summary page for a nonprofit that is not a 501(c)(3) charitable organization will display the following statement near the organization's address: "Your contribution to this organization is deductible only under certain circumstances." If this statement does not appear on a nonprofit's summary page, then that nonprofit is a 501(c)(3) organization.
As the statement indicates, gifts to non-501(c)(3) organizations may not be tax deductible. For more information on this topic, see guidance on the IRS website or consult your tax advisor.
The preceding post is by Suzanne Coffman, managing editor of the GuideStar website.