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

Blog from Social Media for Nonprofits Washington, DC, Conference


The Social Media for Nonprofits conference in Washington, DC featured a stellar list of speakers and local voices. The purpose of the conference was practical tips, tools and approaches to be more effective online with social media.

Nonprofit Community’s Contribution to Reducing National Debt



I think it’s time to change which kind of organizations are eligible for a tax exemption.

Averages are Deceiving



Are the newly released Giving USA numbers good news or bad news?

A New Era Dawns




For some time now, I have been writing to caution donors to check on the charitable status of a nonprofit before making a contribution. I know it sounds simple, but we continue to see nonprofit organizations that are phony and lack the IRS credentials for soliciting donations.

Documenting a High-Performing Organization’s Work-Only Once


How much effort should an organization expend on documenting its good work for prospective donors? That was the question on the minds of participants at an interesting conference held in May by America’s Charities on the campus of Georgetown University. Under the new leadership of energetic Steve Delfin, the conference was an all day analysis of what it will take to increase workplace charitable giving. The story for affiliates of America’s Charities is that giving has continued to increase, but with a trend towards larger gifts from fewer contributors. Changing demographics and the impending retirement of baby boomers were key concerns as well.

Elaborating on the GuideStar Acquisition of Philanthropedia


Building a high performing organization takes finding the right balance. Our customers and users expect rigor and reliability; they depend on us and so we spend a lot of effort to make sure we provide superior customer service and meet expectations. . And yet the world keeps turning. An organization focused only on the present runs the risk of falling behind, failing to provide what users what or missing new opportunities. Change and innovation have also become a big part of our agenda at GuideStar.

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.

Sustainability and Growth at GuideStar


One of my greatest frustrations in trying to build a sustainable nonprofit organization has been the difficulty in finding capital. GuideStar has been blessed with a consortium of foundations that have generously invested tens of millions of dollars in our early years. But as we have grown and reached mid-life in our maturation, foundation dollars for operations have been harder to raise. Several years ago we took on over $2 million in PRI’s as a way to bring in stable and reliable dollars that we could invest in product development, sales and marketing in order to continue our growth at a fast pace. We’re pleased to say that we ended 2010 with 90 percent of our operations covered by sales of products and services and we’re now to a point that increasingly we are relying on foundations for special projects and opportunities, but not support for direct operations. In general we’re now starting to see some attention given to the lack of nonprofit capital and there are a number of interesting developments going on in the nonprofit sector (a subject of another blog). I’ve often thought, though, that with easier access to capital, GuideStar could have grown much faster.

Here in Washington DC the federal budget news gets crazier every day


It’s time for executives of high performing organizations to begin thinking about what the new economic normal will mean for them. Too many nonprofits are operating off of business models created in the 1960’s. Those models had several components that are no longer sustainable. For starters, after non-stop growth in total donations, the nonprofit sector experienced a significant dip in 2009 (Giving USA) and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a further decline in 2010. At the very least, growth will be much slower in the years ahead than it has been in previous decades. At the same time, investment income has declined to historically low levels affecting foundation endowments and organizational endowments alike. Finally, there is the nonprofit sector’s traditional dependence on government grants and contracts, for nearly a third of total revenue. This is a source already in decline and likely to plummet before it stabilizes.

The world seems to have more black swans these days.


That was the observation from a speech I heard this week by Dr. Sherry Cooper, Executive Vice-President and Chief Economist, BMO Financial Group.