Nonprofits Have a Role to Play in Building Bridges in a Polarized World

Reposted with permission of The Chronicle of Philanthropy

America finds itself in a moment of political polarization. At times, nonprofits can reflect or even magnify that polarization. But at our best, we can serve as a bridge across the cultural chasms of our time. Americans across the political spectrum want to live in thriving communities—and every day, nonprofits help communities thrive.

But there are rare cases where the nonprofit form is abused by those with hateful agendas.

GuideStar and Data from the SPLC

GuideStar’s database has information on 1,684,038 active nonprofits. Recently, we added new information to the profiles of 46 of these organizations: the fact that they had been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). That action has earned us both celebration and criticism. So I wanted to take a moment to share the thinking behind our choice to add this new data source.

How to Get Your Nonprofit Listed on GuideStar

One of the questions we hear most at GuideStar is "How can I get my organization added to your database? We want to participate in AmazonSmile [or CrowdRise or some other program]."

The answer varies, depending on what type of nonprofit your organization is and whether you're registered with the IRS. Here are the most common responses to this question:

GuideStar Reaches Out to Nonprofit Community, Expands Database


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:

The Power of the GuideStar Database


GuideStar's National Database of Nonprofit Organizations offers users a wealth of information about American nonprofit organizations. It is the nation's most comprehensive source of data about U.S. nonprofits the Internal Revenue Service has declared tax exempt under Section 501(c) of the U.S. Tax Code.

The breadth and depth of the GuideStar database are unmatched. Most watchdog groups list a few hundred organizations, and state charities officials and nonprofit associations focus on the organizations in their respective states and regions. In contrast, the GuideStar database contains information about every public charity, private foundation, and other 501(c) organizations to which contributions may be tax deductible, more than 850,000 nonprofits in all. (For a discussion of the differences between private foundations and public charities, see "Just What Are Public Charities and Private Foundations, Anyway?")

Small organizations stand on equal footing with large nonprofits in the GuideStar database, and information on rural groups is as accessible as data on urban organizations. In addition to financial data, the GuideStar database contains information about the missions and programs of thousands of nonprofits.

GuideStar obtains information on the organizations in the database from three main sources: the IRS Business Master File (BMF), IRS Forms 990 and 990-EZ, and the nonprofits themselves. The source of the data on a specific nonprofit organization determines the completeness of that nonprofit's GuideStar Report.