Last updated: September 4, 2019.
Life as a nonprofit professional can be incredibly hectic. And by the end of the day, finding time to add information to your nonprofit’s profile on GuideStar may seem like a Herculean task. But, if you have the right tools, updating your profile shouldn’t require the strength of a demi-god. As a profile coach at GuideStar, I’d like to provide you with these essential tools, in the hopes of saving you time and energy, while boosting your organization’s growth and fundraising efforts.
Today we’ll start with the basics, something all toolboxes should contain: a hammer and a measuring tape.
Hold your horses … what’s a GuideStar Nonprofit Profile?
It’s a report in our database where we present the information we have for your organization. We get the data from the IRS and, if your organization’s annual revenue is $1 million or more, your 990.
But if your profile is based only on your IRS information, it’s painting an incomplete picture of your organization. What if all someone knew about you was your name, address, and the information in your 1040? He or she’d get a pretty skewed picture of who you are. Plus, that information could very easily be out of date. Which is why …
You should update your profile
Updating is free. And updating lets you show people that your organization is more than an IRS designation (public charity, private foundation, etc.) or finances. Updating lets you talk about your mission and programs in donor-friendly ways, keep the list of your board and leadership up to date, discuss your needs, and much more.
As you update, you’ll receive one of our Seals of Transparency. The Seals are based on the information that funders and donors need to make informed giving decisions. There are four Seals: Bronze provides basic information (i.e., primary contacts, program descriptions, etc.). Silver shows your basic finances. Gold explains your long-term goals. And Platinum illustrates the progress that you’ve made year-to-year. The amount of information you add to your profile determines which Seal you receive. You can post it on your website and include it in your marketing materials to demonstrate your commitment to transparency.
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve earned yourself a hammer for your toolbox (we hammered out the basics, you see). Now, let’s move to the next most important tool, the measuring tape.
Before you start any task, it’s important to measure your skills, resources, and most of all, available information. Here are three tips that will get you pointed in the right direction:
Tip 1: Delegate
If you don’t have time to update every part of your profile singlehandedly, then consider delegating parts to a colleague or dedicated volunteer. For example, the Silver Seal is all about financials, so asking Farra in Finance for help might reduce your work load. Here’s a complete list of who in your organization should be updating what.
Once Farra says yes, you can make her a manager for your organization’s profile, which will give her complete access. In fact, you can add as many managers to your profile as you desire. Just follow this step-by-step guide to learn how.
*GuideStar best practice: GuideStar always recommends making a general email address, such as email@example.com, as a manager to your profile. So, if Debbie from Development is on vacation, you can still gain access to your profile if you need to make quick changes.
Tip 2: Do your prep work
Before jumping into GuideStar’s updating tool, spend a few minutes gathering all of your documents. It sounds rather basic, but having all the information you need, right in front of you, will save you time right off the bat.
For example, here’s the information you’ll need to receive the Bronze Seal of Transparency:
- Organization address, contact name, and e-mail
- Mission statement
- Geographic area served
- Name of organization leader and board chair
- Program names and a quick description of each program
- NTEE codes and keywords
You probably already have most of this information on hand. I guarantee that if you can answer the above requirements, you can achieve the Bronze level in 15 minutes or less.
To view the full list of required information for each Seal, click here. Then, scroll down to “GuideStar Nonprofit Profile Requirements.”
Tip 3: Don’t overdo it
The key to a GuideStar Nonprofit Profile is to keep your text short and sweet. Bit-size. Glanceable, even.
Why? Donors and funders tend to scroll through profiles, rather than take the time to read every sentence. So, to minimize the amount of time you spend filling in text fields and maximize the amount of time GuideStar users spend reading about your organization, keep your information brief.
For example, when you’re filling out fields for the Bronze Seal and see a 3,000-character limit for “Program Description,” don’t feel you have to use all 3,000 characters. Instead, go for 2-3 quick paragraphs, with each paragraph containing at most three or four sentences. As for shorter text fields, such as your mission statement or area served, a simple one to two sentences will suffice. That’s it!
Now that you know the basics and are equipped with the above tips, you’ill be able to measure your workload and begin to update your profile easily and efficiently. There are more tools to be learned, however, so please be on the lookout for future posts, where I’ll provide information on each Seal of Transparency and much, much more.
If you have specific topics you'd like to discuss, questions, or are just plain curious about GuideStar’s Seals of Transparency, please leave a comment below.
In the meantime, check out these top guides to get you started on updating your organization’s profile:
- How to get your nonprofit listed on GuideStar
- How to gain access to your organization’s profile
- How to change your organization’s address on GuideStar
When she isn't helping nonprofits update their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles, Madeline Kardos writes for GuideStar's top-rated blog. Follow GuideStar on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on the latest nonprofit sector news.