The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

From Heroin Tragedy to Charity

My best friend, Madison, died of a heroin overdose more than three years ago. If you are interested in learning more about his story, the Washington Post ran an article about him (and the rising heroin epidemic in Northern Virginia) shortly after his death.

Evaluating Charities in the Age of Online Ratings

I serve as liaison to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, nonprofit information portals like GuideStar, charity evaluation groups, and the Combined Federal Campaign, all on behalf of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). Serving for more than a decade in these roles, one thing has become very clear: many donors do not realize there is no shortcut for making wise giving choices.

New Text Message Review Feature Offers Nonprofits Instant Feedback

Ninety-eight percent of text messages are read and the majority are opened within three minutes of being sent, according to Techipedia. In comparison 84% of Facebook news feed stories aren’t viewed, 71% of tweets get ignored and 88% of emails go unopened. To leverage the power of texting, GreatNonprofits created a new SMS, or “short message service”, review feature.

Pouring Lukewarm Water on the #IceBucketChallenge

It starts with a nagging muscle cramp. And then there’s a twitch in your leg that won’t go away. Weeks later you notice that half your body is inexplicably weaker than the other half. Soon thereafter your breathing becomes labored. You go see one doctor, who sends you to another doctor, who sends you to yet another doctor. After a myriad of tests rule out other possible causes, you are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Statistically, you will be dead within three to five years, but within a year there is a good chance that you will be trapped inside your own permanently frozen body. You will be able to think clearly, move your eyes, and control your bowels but beyond that you will have no function of your legs, arms, feet, hands or any other voluntary muscle systems.*

What Can Tell You About Nonprofit Legitimacy

I’ve talked before about our new Quick View summary on our nonprofit reports, and today I want to focus on the section dealing with legitimacy. Check out my video here:

The Era of Trust but Verify


There are over a million nonprofits in the United States and there may be well over a million interesting stories to tell. Listen to this one: our curious Vice President of Research, Chuck McLean, was roaming through the GuideStar database and discovered there are 2,267 records with an “in care of name” of William Alexander, and an address of “Nonprofit Accounting Services, Las Vegas,NV, 89107”. He noticed that they all had very small incomes, and on a whim, he matched them again the list the IRS published of organizations at-risk of revocation due to failure to file, and found that of the 2267 records, 2029 were on the at-risk list, but are shown on the BMF with a tax year of 2009 and also have a 2009 990-N filing and all with the same Las Vegas address –even though the organizations are located all over the country. Well, as Chuck puts it, “there are probably some benign explanations for this, but if it swims like a fish, and smells like a fish… “ At that point he notified the IRS and we were told they were already aware of this issue.

Nonprofit Data: Something for Everyone

Although we wouldn’t presume to have the answer to Sigmund Freud’s famous question, we do applaud the approach that Cynthia Gibson and Bill Dietel take in their provocative article “What Do Donors Want?,” in a recent issue of Nonprofit Quarterly. At GuideStar, we have long known that the majority of donors give according to their hearts. They look for nonprofits that align with their own sets of values, and they look for the nonprofits themselves to prove that they are worthy of the donations. That’s what makes the nonprofit sector so interesting – there’s something for everyone.

The Gang of 40: How More Important Than Who


What do you think of the efforts of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to urge their fellow billionaires to donate more to charity? So far, about 40 billionaires have responded positively, and I’ve seen one estimate that the amount pledged so far is approximately $600 billion.

Multitasking Philanthropy and Shopping

I went to the supermarket the other day to do the weekly family food shopping and, while I was paying my bill, the checkout clerk asked me if I wanted to make a contribution to a charity. I said no, but I felt a little guilty about it. When I left the supermarket with my bags of groceries, there were kids on the curb asking for contributions to local charities, all of them good causes. When I got home I paid my bills, and my insurance company asked me if I wanted to make a contribution to their nonprofit. I’m not sure what it does. That one was easy to reject; I just didn’t click the box. No human interaction required.

More Advice on Giving Wisely