March 24, 2017

How transparency can be a tool to encourage charitable giving

The nonprofit Guidestar uses data to help donors make informed giving decisions

GuideStar provides information that advances transparency in the nonprofit sector. Image courtesy of Guidestar


Meet the finalists for The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, underwritten by Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $100,000 in grant money. Five winners will be announced March 30 at The Renewal Summit in Washington, on, and here, on The Renewal Project.

GuideStar USA was founded in 1994 with the mission of advancing transparency and encouraging charitable giving.

We spoke with the nonprofit’s director of philanthropic relations Beth Suarez to learn more about how the organization can benefit not donors, but journalists, foundations, social entrepreneurs, and the nonprofits themselves.

Follow Guidestar on Twitter at @GuideStarUSA and on Facebook.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your community:

GuideStar supports and serves the entire nonprofit sector and drives impact for the individuals, communities, and ecosystems served by the sector. GuideStar has information on nearly 2.5 million current and formerly IRS-recognized nonprofits; these nonprofits represent and serve all demographics of the U.S. Each year, more than 7 million visitors turn to GuideStar for the data and intelligence they need to make informed giving decisions. Millions more tap GuideStar resources through more than 200 philanthropic websites and applications that are fed by GuideStar data.

What inspired you to do this work?

Every social change actor—individual donor, foundation, social entrepreneur, journalist, corporation, nonprofit—needs the right data to make the right, informed decision. For too long, decisions about social change have been distilled into single metrics, such as an overhead ratio. Yet the work of the nonprofit sector is much more than a single metric, and GuideStar is committed to providing organizations with the opportunity and visibility to share their full story, including actual results and progress.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

GuideStar, as the largest source of data and intelligence on nonprofits, is providing the millions of people who turn to it each year the data they need to make information-driven decisions. We provide every nonprofit, regardless of size, the opportunity to share their full story–programs, mission, values, operations, governance, and financials–and to do so for free. Through a GuideStar profile, a nonprofit can share their story with millions and millions who visit and the more than 200 data partners that are fed by GuideStar information, including Facebook, AmazonSmile, and the donor advised funds of Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard.

What do you love about your community?

We love being part of the rich and vibrant fabric of the social sector. These institutions of social change–nonprofits, foundations, and more–are absolutely central to the health of the human society.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

GuideStar represents the data hub of the social sector. We provide transparency and visibility for all nonprofits. We are not simply a data organization, rather we are a nonprofit serving the sector with a commitment to social change.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.