GuideStar Blog

The Best Reference Resource in American Philanthropy


GuideStar data is unique. Nobody else offers the wealth and depth of information that is the GuideStar database. Best of all, all of this data on nonprofits is available in various packages on our Web site, ready for easy consumption. Whatever your information needs, chances are we can meet them. We make it our mission to revolutionize philanthropy with information. Excited yet?

You can look up basic information on any American charity or private foundation with just a couple of mouse-clicks, then do as much or as little research on those nonprofits as you like. You can utilize the GuideStar Reports, which display a wealth of financial and program information, or you can choose from various products and services that give you tailor made and in-depth data about specific organizations, parts of the sector, or the nonprofit world in general.

The organizations that populate the GuideStar universe (more than nonprofits that are recognized by the IRS) are those to which charitable donations are tax-deductible. We get financial and program information from the IRS Business Master File and—for organizations that are required to file an annual information return with the IRS—via Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF. We even make those forms available on the site, as PDF image files.

The nonprofits themselves are an additional source of information that you find on GuideStar. We encourage charities to present more of themselves than the IRS requires—such as details on missions, accomplishments, leaders, and employees.

The Business Master File provides basic information about a charity, such as contact information and a brief description of its activities.

We pull both program and financial information from the Forms 990 and 990-EZ, which approximately 260,000 nonprofits are required to file. We also capture data from the 990-PF for the 33,000 largest or most active private foundations in the country. To ensure the quality of our data, GuideStar contractors type the information from each form twice, resulting in a 99.9 percent accuracy level. This means that the exact content of the form will make it into our database. Since GuideStar began making the Forms 990 easily available on-line in 1999, nonprofits have increasingly recognized the value of correct and thorough Form 990 reporting.

The rest of the organizations found on GuideStar do not have to file with the IRS because they are either too small or they are faith-based organizations. In some cases, our information on these nonprofits is limited to data from the Business Master File. Thousands of these organizations, however, have updated their reports with information about their missions, programs, accomplishments, and goals.

So why should you get excited about GuideStar data and use it for research as well as to make decisions about your or your company's charitable actions? Because it is simply the best reference resource available in American philanthropy. It's unparalleled in its comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Christine Aube
© 2004, Philanthropic Research, Inc.

Christine Aube is GuideStar's director of data management.
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  Your Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar has a new Demographics section.