One of the largest banks in the country called the agency I worked for to ask a quick question about one of our programs. The bank’s foundation wanted to give us a large grant from a donor-advised fund. The foundation representative commended us on our transparency on our GuideStar page. Said it was one of the best and that we made it easy for them to do their due diligence. We got the grant.
If your agency is registered as a 501 (c)(3) with the IRS, you probably have a GuideStar page. One of the most important things you can do, as part of your overall grants strategy, is to update it at least once a year. Program officers tell me that they always check a nonprofit’s GuideStar page (and website) when deciding whether or not to move forward with a grant proposal.
GuideStar has four levels of transparency: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
You can list up to five programs and give the budget detail for each. (I only listed three.) You can also give details about your short and long term successes, evaluation plans, and of course a detailed description of your programs.
I usually update my agency’s GuideStar page in April, after the Board approves the audited financial statement. By then, I’ve collected our accomplishments for the previous year for the annual report and the F990. I don’t wait for the IRS to provide GuideStar with our F990; I want the information to be posted as soon as it’s available because it supports my grant writing efforts. Also, several foundations are no longer asking for a copy of the F990 because it wastes so much paper.
Once you’ve updated your GuideStar page and met their transparency requirements, you qualify for the GuideStar Exchange, which gives you additional research capabilities on their site. There’s really no reason not to do this!
Great Nonprofits is a nonprofit review site that partners with GuideStar. While I’m not thrilled about this concept, it is something you can use to help promote your agency and good reviews look good on your GuideStar page. Please check it to make sure there are no bad reviews about your agency. While you cannot remove a bad review, you can always ask people for good reviews to balance it out.