GuideStar Introduces Program Metrics Section for Nonprofit Profiles

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May 11, 2016; GuideStar and original Nonprofit Quarterly reporting

GuideStar, the nonprofit repository of information on 2.4 million U.S. nonprofits visited by 7 million people annually, is adding a new way for organizations to report quantifiable data in support of their program achievements. GuideStar Platinum was developed as a way for nonprofits to provide non-financial data to demonstrate effectiveness, thereby addressing the pitfalls of the “overhead myth,” which gauges an organization’s worthiness of support by measuring its effectiveness in terms of its expenditures on program services versus management and fundraising.

GuideStar Platinum features can be used without charge by any nonprofit organization, and may be accessed by any visitor to the GuideStar website. In addition, the program-based data submitted by nonprofits will be shared with GuideStar’s 180 “data partners,” including Amazon Smile and JustGive.org. However, only nonprofits that have also completed the disclosure requirements for GuideStar’s bronze (basic information), silver (finances), and gold (qualitative impact) recognition will be able to display a “GuideStar Platinum Participant” badge on their organization’s GuideStar page.

The most ambitious aspect of the program is its effort to promote dialogue about what is being measured by nonprofits. GuideStar provides a “Common Results Catalog” of 800 sample metrics with definitions. In prerelease testing, 900 nonprofits used 1,300 metrics to describe their program accomplishments. GuideStar officials hope that long-term community dialogue about metrics will help develop common definitions for metrics as well as refine which metrics are most meaningful in common usage.

While GuideStar Platinum addresses the overhead myth by giving nonprofits a free and flexible way to report data, the major drawback is how relatively few nonprofits actually upload their own information to GuideStar. Most GuideStar entries provide only a small amount of basic information on a nonprofit, along with its most recent Form 990 returns provided by the IRS (historical Form 990 data and GuideStar reports on selected nonprofits are available with a paid subscription or for purchase). For GuideStar Platinum to be successful in both data aggregation and community discussion about metrics, more nonprofits will need to be encouraged to—and see the value of—adding their own information to their GuideStar-provided data.—Michael Wyland

  • Kaki Rusmore

    I’m not familiar with existing levels of information that nonprofits can load to GuideStar. How easy is it to do, and what have been the responses of people that have done it? thanks!

  • Stephanie

    Hi Michael. I’m not sure why this metrics section is being considered “new” by Guidestar. I believe it is because Guidestar is providing more support to nonprofits in the way of tools to help complete the section. As far as I know, I’ve seen a program section on Guidestar for a while, although I can’t say when this component was first put in place. (maybe last year?) Regarding encouraging more nonprofits to contribute metrics to Guidestar, I can only guess that there could be several reasons why: 1) It is yet an additional “chore” for already overburdened staff to tackle 2) organizations do not yet have the capacity, expertise or funding to help them establish performance measures and track them 3) organizations HAVE “the capacity, expertise…etc” BUT the resulting information is not favorable and management hesitates to make public and Finally, 4) could nonprofits and their donors be more focused on other ratings companies (watchdogs)?

  • Linda Spurlin-Dominik, CEO Gua

    Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet who has been registered with Guide Star since 2005 would love to be part of the Platinum level but unfortunately either because we are doing something different in how we are supporting our military and veteran communities there is nothing there for organizations like ours. In fact didn’t really see any metrics that would relate to what military and veteran support organizations are doing in today’s world that would allow such organizations to reach Platinum level in Guide Star. Even the animal section is geared to animal shelters/rescues but nothing for organizations that have either a pet foster home program or a program helping our military and veterans with their companion animals related to specific situations or anything related to service dog programs for our service members and veterans diagnosed with PTSD and TBI. Am really disappointed and unless you are the standard Human Services or an organization that covers Advocacy or Political issues, the rest are left out of applying for Platinum recognition which is very disappointing. Whether people want to know it, our active duty service members are still involved with deployments fighting the war on terror around the world which also involves peacekeeping missions, plus we have hundreds of thousands of wound warriors and veterans facing major medical inpatient issues and homelessness across the USA who need our assistance and support as residents of the USA. Again we are very disappointed not being able to apply for Platinum level we can see as impacting our Contributions from foundations and the larger organizations who contribute to other 501c3 organizations like ours, since most of them now will look at the organizations with Platinum and ignore those of us with Gold level participation. I would think that what Guide Star creates as a way to help organizations would be for all organizations listed/registered with Guide Star. Plus the previous levels should have provided what the majority of visitors to Guide Star would need to know. Going over the metrics listings only seems applicable to a limited number of visitors and anytime we have been contacted by another organization, association, or foundation is to verify the info provided on our website (Public Disclosure Docs, policies, and Financials) is the most current info, which 99% of the time it is. So actually not sure why the Metrics helps in any way besides what has already been provided up to and including the Gold level. Must be missing something that Guide Star feels is important that most of us ALL volunteer and grassroots 501c3 organizations can’t see from what we have read thus far.