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Clearing Up Confusion about U.S. Nonprofits

nine-things-cover-left-and-bottom-margins.jpgSoon after I joined GuideStar, I concluded that the U.S. nonprofit sector was complicated. Guess what? Sixteen years later, I still think that. Only now I know I'm not alone. I've also learned that the same things tend to trip up sector newbies. Nonprofit staff members, trustees, businesspersons, journalists, whoever—they generally ask the same questions. That's why my colleagues and I created "Nine Things You Might Not Know about U.S. Nonprofits," a kind of Nonprofits 101 for anyone interested in the sector. You can download the report for free from the GuideStar website.

Yes, You Can Still Download 990s for Free

Last week, we excitedly announced the launch of our new GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles. And almost immediately, we started to see comments like "Oh, you can't download the 990s on GuideStar for free anymore." Let me hasten to correct that misunderstanding:

The Articles You Read Most Last Year

Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising, and a little about boards—that's what GuideStar Newsletter subscribers wanted to know about last year. Here are the 10 articles Newsletter recipients read most in 2014:

  1. Questions I'm Most Often Asked about Boards and Fundraising, by Kay Sprinkel Grace, published in our March 20, 2014, issue
  2. Five Tips for Planning Your Next Fundraising Event, by Laura Huddle, published in our February 6, 2014, issue
  3. Top 10 Major Donor Fundraising Trends for 2014-2015, by Gail Perry, published in our August 7, 2014, issue
  4. Top Five Damned Fool Questions about Charity Golf, by Tom King, published in our August 21, 2014, issue
  5. Questions I'm Most Often Asked about Building a Planned Giving Program, by David Valinsky, published in our December 18, 2014, issue
  6. Fundraising Training Exercise: Where's the Money? by Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson, published in our May 1, 2014, issue
  7. Fundraising Training Exercise: Where Do You Stand? Fundraising Continuums, by Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson, published in our March 6, 2014, issue
  8. Questions I'm Most Often Asked about Direct Mail Fundraising, by Jeff Brooks, published in our January 16, 2014, issue
  9. Questions I'm Most Often Asked about Cultivating Donors, by Thomas Wolf, published in our February 20, 2014, issue
  10. Board Wrinkles: The Questions I'm Most Often Asked, by Jerold Panas, published in our May 15, 2014, issue

Suzanne E. Coffman, January 2015
© 2015, GuideStar USA, Inc.

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's editorial director and editor of the GuideStar Newsletter. She thanks the authors and publishers who generously shared their wisdom with GuideStar's readers in 2014.

Kay Sprinkel Grace Laura Huddle Gail Perry Tom King

Charitable Design: 4 Ways to Decorate a Nonprofit Office

The best nonprofit organizations encompass hope, determination and endless aspirations. Equally inspiring workplace surroundings can enhance the success of your organization. Welcome employees and benefactors to an environment that sparks innovation and creativity. Do away with fluorescent lights, bare walls and uninspired cubicles. You can have a sleek and efficient office without a pretentious aura that steers away future contributors. The challenge is creating a workplace that's professional, creative and productive without appearing rapacious. Let your energy and intentions show through work place design. Focus on embracing the company culture for a winning look that speaks volumes of your hard-work and ethics.

Purposeful Furnishings

Furnishings don't have to be drab to show responsible spending. Your office space can still be chic with creative touches that tell a story. Focus on utilizing pieces that reflect your cause. Dallas-based non-profit Dwell With Dignity combined elements of design and philanthropy to launch its new studio. Born from the belief that surroundings can change a person's outlook on life, the organization's mission is to create soothing homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty. For its new studio launch, local designers created a vignette using donated warehouse products. The result? A beautiful office space created from low-cost recycled furnishings to use as inspiration for the cause.

Mirror, Mirror

There's no need for large executive offices. Whether your non-profit is established or just getting started, ensure your office space fits your immediate needs. High overhead is not only a constraint on your budget, but looks questionable in the eyes of future donors. Instead, make the best use of your space with small touches that make a big difference. Tall mirrors at the end of a narrow hallway expand space while accent mirrors add interest to walls and create a spacious feel. Mirrors also promote positive energy with proper placement. Considered the "aspirin of Feng Shui," adding mirrors to a workplace can create a calming presence and help reduce stress.

Display Gratitude

When it comes to donors and investors, a little gratitude goes a long way. Incorporating contributors in your office design provides a daily reminder of those who support you. Whats' more, prospects will love seeing how the company supports and appreciates current benefactors. Take notes from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Its new Los Angeles office features a two story high wall painted in black with the names of each donor written in white. The wall stands as a centerpiece of the building, commemorating everyone who made the new building possible.

Stand Out

Donors want to represent the best. To be the best, you'll need a first-rate, winning team. Recruit an all-star lineup by promoting a culture that's both donor-worthy and employee-appealing. Unique touches, like a tree house conference room featured at the Epic Systems Corporate Office, stand out and pique interest. Harnessing creativity promotes a team culture that's second to none. Even simple and cost-effective design, like a chalkboard or whiteboard painted wall, encourage team collaboration that potential investors are sure to be impressed with.

How (Not) To Manage a Project

Anisha Singh

3 Tips to Help the College-to-Workplace Transition


Finding the transition from that easy-going college lifestyle to the strict, daily grind of the working world jarring? You aren’t alone.

The 2013 GuideStar Newsletter Top 10

Bob Ottenhoff, GuideStar's CEO emeritus, used to say that publishing a GuideStar Newsletter article on fundraising or compensation was the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. We knew those topics would grab subscribers' attention.

Round-up of 2013 GuideStar Blog Posts

Season's Greetings!

The GuideStar Blog will be on hiatus for winter break, and will be back on January 2. Of course there’s still a ton of great content to peruse! Below is a quick round-up of posts that you may have missed or just want to read again:

Thank you

Happy Labor Day!

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