Don’t Forget Guidestar

I recently needed some information about my own organization from Guidestar, and was surprised to see how outdated our information was. Of course, we had all the required 990 forms and data, but our description, mission, accomplishments, and other areas had not been updated in several years. The person listed as our contact is no longer with the organization.

In many large organizations, it may not be clear who’s responsible for providing this information — but if you work at a nonprofit, you should make sure your marketing/fundraising/communications people take a look at how you’re presenting your organization to the public. No offense to the finance folks, but if the information is only coming from them with no other input, it may not be ready for public viewing. Even if the information is accurate, it’s unlikely to be inspiring to someone who may be considering making a donation.

Do this:
1. Search for your organization in Guidestar. Take a look at other organizations that have similar names — because potential donors will see them too.
2. Review your information, and not just for accuracy. Does your description present your organization as efficient, committed, and successful?
3. Ask yourself if an average person could understand the role of philanthropy in your organization. How are donations used, and why are they needed? What impact have past donations made, and what will additional funding help you accomplish?
4. Take a look at other organizations in your area (hunger, the environment, etc.) and see how you compare in Guidestar. Also take a look at nonprofits in your regional area. If a donor were shopping around for the most effective and worthy nonprofit, how would you stack up?
5. After you improve your profile, consider linking to Guidestar from your website. You can also make it easy by offering your 990 forms right on your website, but by referring donors to your page on the site, you’re adding another level of transparency and openness.

Also take a look at these tips from Guidestar:

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