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

Asking Questions as a Powerful Way to Learn

Whether in the realm of business, journalism, relationships, or of course in our nonprofit and social sector, the act of “questioning” can be powerful. A piece in the Harvard Business Review last year noted, “Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in organizations: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members. And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.”


How Funder Fragility Is Similar to White Fragility and What Funders Can Do about It

At a group convening I attended a while back, we discussed some of the challenges facing leaders of color in the sector, including how 90% of funding still go to white-led organizations, how funders still use a very white lens in what is considered good data and effective programs, how the smallest and most burdensome grants are often the only ones accessible to marginalized-communities-led organizations, how white foundation boards are, the general lack of trust foundations have for nonprofits, and how progressive foundations spend endless amounts of time intellectualizing, which disproportionately harms marginalized communities because they cannot afford to wait months or years for funding decisions.


Foundations Call on Themselves to Get Better

The following article is cross-posted from Alliance magazine blog. Based out of the UK, Alliance magazine is the leading global magazine on philanthropy and social investment.

Last month, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), engaged by the Skoll Foundation, and working together with a Steering Group composed of the Porticus, Ford, and Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, published a report looking at funder behaviour from a grantee perspective.


Why We Need to Stop Asking “What Do You Do?”

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.


Trust-Based Grantmaking: What It Is, and Why It’s Critical to Our Sector

The Walking Dead is back on TV. After last season’s finale, and this season’s opener, I am not sure I will continue watching. But zombies do make me think of funding dynamics, so that’s why I am bringing it up. In The Walking Dead, the zombies are scary, but they are the least dangerous. Zombies eat brains; they don’t have brains; they don’t have hidden motives and plans; you know exactly what a zombie will do. It’s the humans who are terrifying. Pushed into survival mode, they calculate, lie, betray, and refuse to use the Oxford Comma (#OxfordCommaForever). No one trusts anyone, and it’s more often than not that groups of humans end up killing one another before a zombie actually gets to munch on anyone’s flesh.


Less Paperwork, More Impact: GuideStar for Grant Applications

Welcome to a world of streamlined grant applications. Today, GuideStar for Grant Applications (G4G) is changing the way the philanthropic sector manages information so processes are more efficient and reliable.


How Funders Reduce “Nonprofit Starvation” with Tech Funding & Data Best Practices

Between the oft-cited “nonprofit starvation cycle” and a movement to debunk the “Overhead Myth” that holds many in philanthropy back from supporting nonprofit operational expenses, it can feel like the state of nonprofit funding today is grim.

We think that powerful examples of best practices can help turn the tide. So let’s talk about what’s going right. Some leading funders are increasing nonprofit capacity and supporting critical operations in key ways. 


Teaching the Next Generation About Philanthropy

In the early days of foundations, the transition from the first generation to the second often didn’t begin until the children of the founder were gathered in a lawyer’s office to read his or her will.

There, the founder’s adult children would often be surprised to learn that the family had created a foundation. In some cases, they didn’t even know that their families had enough wealth to support philanthropy.

Thankfully, those days are largely over.

Today, these abrupt transfers are becoming less common—and they are giving way to a much more deliberate approach to involving the next generation.


Some positive feedback and appreciation for funders


A few months ago, our grantwriter and I dealt with a grant for $4,000 that comprised a five-page narrative and about 10 attachments. Luckily, of course, we have most of those documents ready in our Master Grant folder. The kicker, though, was the unusual requirement for us to print out a document with ten labels, each corresponding to one of the attachments, and literally cut out each of the tabs and paste it on to the attachments. So there I was, handling a glue stick for the first time in years, carefully pasting each tab. I was getting more and more irritated, gritting my teeth and wishing I had listened to that one palm reader in Saigon who told me to go into medicine or maybe law (I think my parents paid her).


Foundation Status Code Added to GuideStar Charity Check

Foundation status code displayed in a GuideStar Charity Check PDF report

GuideStar Charity Check reports now include foundation status codes, saving subscribers more time than ever.