Update the information for your organization on GuideStar.

What?  You never heard of GuideStar?  Well you can get in line with hundreds of other new small nonprofit organizations.  GuideStar is a nonprofit organization that is currently merging with another nonprofit called “Candid”.  But GuideStar has been around for at least 5 years that I know of.

GuideStar is a database with the names of all the nonprofit organizations who have registered with the IRS.  If you have registered and been certified as a 501 c3 nonprofit organization, you are in their database.  GuideStar is the database that many donors use to check up on a nonprofit that is asking them for money.  For example, it is reported that 55,000 from Facebook used GuideStar to check on organizations asking for donations on Facebook.

Big problem with GuideStar

They download the IRS files but the information is not sorted into a format that most donors will understand.  But more importantly GuideStar does not notify the nonprofit organizations that they have downloaded half-baked information about the organization and uploaded it to their database.  You have no way of knowing this has been done.

I never heard of GuideStar until almost three years after founding Loving Garland Green and we participated in North Texas Day of Giving and we were told we had to update our information in this database.  At that point in time we had already been in operation for almost three years.  So, for almost three years when any potential donor would look up Loving Garland Green on GuideStar, they would see a screen that looked like the following example.  [I’ve blanked out name of Nonprofit, Ein number and name/address of a member that appears on this page.



Notice in the image above, for the Mission statement GuideStar has taken it upon themselves to write in:  “This organization has not provided GuideStar with a mission statement”  --as if somehow this is all our fault that we didn’t write a mission statement to be included in the database of GuideStar, an organization we never even heard of.  But that doesn’t matter.  And even worse, the whole tone of this implies the nonprofit is somehow out of compliance, or lax in their duties—which is totally false.

This is just another example of how small fish swimming in the sea of multinational corporations have the odds stacked against them when it comes to fundraising in competition with large nonprofit organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Cancer Society and others.

It’s the same story in the world of for profit organizations. Mom and Pop local operations face the same one-sided type of competition with large corporations.  For example, here in the USA our government defines a “small business” as any company with fewer than 500 employees.  This means that subsidiaries of large multinational corporations like Bechtel can compete with small mom and pop operations for government subsidies.  As far as the true definition of a small business in the USA is concerned:  Of the 28 million small businesses in the USA, 22 million are individually operated without any employees. The United State’s small business community contributes roughly half of the total $17 trillion GDP (approximately $8.5 trillion.)


ADVICE TO DONORS:  Give more to local nonprofits!

Make a special effort to learn about and seek out your local nonprofits this year.  Like any local organization, more of the money you give to them will stay and directly benefit the people in your community and less of it will go for operating expenses for the nonprofit. If you come across a profile in GuideStar that looks like the one in this article, don’t just automatically write them off.  Seek them out.  Make a small effort to find their website or Facebook and learn who they are.  Don’t just depend on one source.  It’s to your advantage and to your community’s advantage to do this.  My three favorite nonprofits in my community of Garland:

Garland Area Makerspace (

Loving Garland Green ( )

Good Samaritans of Garland (


TIP 1 FOR LOCAL NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS: Update your GuideStar information.

I know, it’s not fair but if you want to give your organization the best chance possible to profit from fundraising efforts, you’ve got to go to GuideStar and update the worse than non-information that may be showing there for your nonprofit organization.

Go to this link and search under the name of your organization.


TIP 2 FOR LOCAL NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS:  Use technology to help contact donors.

Visit this Nonprofit Tech for Good.  It has some fabulous information to help you.





This is what a GuideStar listing for a nonprofit organization looks like after the members of the organization update it:


Below you can see what the Dallas Makerspace looks like.  Keep in mind Dallas Makerspace has been a nonprofit for almost 10 years and has over 400 members.I don't know why their site has SEE SCHEDULE O instead of  “This organization has not provided GuideStar with a mission statement”   as does the current site for Garland Area Makerspace.  I do know that Schedule O is the form for submitting supplemental information to the IRS Form 990.  I couldn't tell you why they have not updated their site in this database as did Loving Garland Green and others.  Perhaps they are less like sheep.  Perhaps their update is to simply reference donors to this IRS supplemental form--which is a little like saying "go play 52 card pickup" because that information really isn't very helpful--not that I would blame them for doing this at all.    

if nothing else this is a testimony to the reliability of the information in the GuideStar database.  The Dallas Makerspace has been around for almost 10 years has over 400 members and is a great organization deserving of community support but you wouldn't learn that here.

SO ONCE AGAIN, DONORS:  Please don't rely on one source when seeking information regarding nonprofits who deserve support.

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