GuideStar: Invaluable Nonprofit Resource
“If you care about nonprofits and the work they do, then you’re affected by what GuideStar does. Here at GuideStar we gather and disseminate information about every single IRS-registered nonprofit organization. We provide as much information as we can about each nonprofit’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and so much more. We do that so you can take the information and make the best decisions possible.”
In 2013, I was asked by GuideStar (now a division of Candid), to share my experiences using its database. I had two case studies posted as pdf files on the website for a few years, but as GuideStar merged with Candid and the entire website has been updated, they are no longer available. Apologies!
Today, the first resource I consult when researching a potential donor is GuideStar. Surprised?
Not only does GuideStar provide information about nonprofit organizations in the traditional sense, but you can also find information about donors like private foundations that are themselves nonprofit.
Among my favorite resources are the tax returns. Sometimes even the best online and printed foundation directories do not reveal the current state of a foundation. By reviewing their tax returns in GuideStar, you can discover who is currently serving on a foundation’s board of directors (and who is serving in what positions of leadership); you can find new contact information for the foundation (and sometimes, individual trustees); you can learn the latest projects funded (and sometimes foundations can change their funding focus areas without notice); you can discover the amounts of the grants awarded (thereby indicating the level of potential interest in your perhaps similar project); and more.
Try the “advanced search” function on GuideStar, and you can discover such things as every museum in the state of Texas (and you can sort by budget size), or, every human services nonprofit in the state of Virginia, for instance.
GuideStar Data at a Glance
1.8 million IRS-recognized tax-exempt organizations
5.4 million Form 990 images
3.2 million digitized Form 990 records
6.6 million individuals in the nonprofit sector
For me, the printed and online foundation directories are excellent resources for honing-down generally on prospective donors I want to research. But the truth is, the tax returns tell a more exact story about their current circumstances.
There are other research resources that provide general assistance in this regard, among them The Foundation Center’s “Foundation Finder,” and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. I personally find GuideStar to be the most accessible, and I like the added benefits of its GuideStar Exchange Program, the GuideStar blogs, and the ability of individuals to review nonprofits via GreatNonprofits (your reviews are linked to the organization’s GuideStar profile).
But these are just the tip of the iceberg! I urge you to explore GuideStar’s website to discover all the helpful information and resources it provides. And my hearty thanks goes to GuideStar for featuring my two case studies. I hope you will take the time to read and enjoy them!
Best wishes for your fundraising success,
Carolyn M. Appleton