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What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About GuideStar, Network for Good and Social Media Fundraising

January 20, 2010

[tweetmeme] 1. Social media fundraising is built upon and empowered by the GuideStar database.
2. All 501c3’s in the United States have profiles on GuideStar.
3. Network for Good uses the GuideStar database to distribute online donations made on their website and on their partner websites.
4. Network for Good has partnered with, Razoo, Facebook Causes and Give a Tweet (just to name a few!).
5. Therefore, all nonprofits inside the GuideStar database also have profiles on Network for Good, Give a Tweet,, Razoo and Facebook Causes.

Those five points made, if your organization has old information inside of GuideStar, then you have old information on Network for Good,, Razoo, Facebook Causes and Give A Tweet. If your organization receives any donations on these sites, then it’s mailed to the address in GuideStar so you want to make sure that address is current.

I worked at various nonprofits from 1997-2006 and updating Guidestar was one of those “To Do’s” that was always last on my list. Updating GuideStar is a bit tedious because you have to enter a lot of financial data, but in this new era of social media fundraising, keeping your organization’s information current in GuideStar is an absolute must.

If you have not updated your entry in Guidestar recently, please visit Guidestar’s Nonprofit Resources. If you are not sure whether your nonprofit is in Guidestar, please visit and in the “Search” box enter your EIN number with the dash [XX-XXXXXXX]. If nothing comes up, then your organization is not in Guidestar. See GuideStar’s FAQ for more infomation or e-mail them at Good luck. The good news is you only have to update GuideStar once a year!

25 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 12:45 pm

    Thank you so very much for posting this information! Quite honestly, I find myself in the midst of GuideStar hell! The reason is that we are a grassroots, interfaith-based, 501(c)(3) with currently around only $500. a year in funds. We need to locate start-up/seed funding. The challenge is that there are many hoops to jump through to be granted certain levels of credibility that GuideStar now has in place. For example, when someone pulls up our info on GuideStar, it says “Charity Check Not Verified.” That doesn’t look good to people. Even I wouldn’t donate to an organization that had that next to their profile!

    There are things like “Whistler Blower Policies” that GuideStar asks to have in place – I have no idea what the heck that is or where to find a form to have approved by our board of directors. Plus, just inputting data on the site is not remotely user friendly. This is my worst nightmare!


    Rev. Cynthia

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 27, 2010 11:42 am

      Yeah… GuideStar can be tedious, but they have to do all that to prevent people from creating fake nonprofits. Hang in there… give them a call… and take one of their webinars. Good luck!

  2. January 24, 2010 9:11 am

    Always a good reminder.

  3. January 26, 2010 10:18 am

    Thank you for sharing your ideas. I found your page through Linkedin and it’s really interesting and useful. I am the social media marketing manager at GoodPlay Media. We are trying to help nonprofits raise money through linking them to the golf community. Online registration of charities require the Charity Name or Tax ID number. We use GuideStar to verify any nonprofit status. Each charity will have their own page on our website. The registration is free.

    Online donations are processed through our trusted and secure partners (GuideStar, JustGive and U.S. Merchant Systems).

    I would really appreciate any social media marketing ideas and strategies that you can share with us.



  4. January 27, 2010 11:30 am

    Heather, I have a question about the Guidestar process. As you note, so many online donor portals and databases pull from Guidestar’s reference. However, updating Guidestar is becoming increasingly onerous with the newly added governance and other requirements. Right now, the forms have gotten so complex that smaller groups and those that are thinly staffed struggle to complete them. If you can only do “part” of the Guidestar forms, which are the key bits?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 27, 2010 11:39 am

      Sorry… I can’t help you with the details of GuideStar process… try emailing or call them, but at the very least make sure your name and address is current. 🙂

    • January 27, 2010 12:02 pm

      Michael Zwirn~
      Thanks so much for backing-up what I said concerning the GuideStar navigation/hoop nightmare. When I emailed them, they suggested that I call their tech support # (1-800-784-9378) for help. Now I’m just waiting until I have several hours available to dedicate to that process – UGH!

      Please do keep us posted as to how you make out…

      Rev. Cynthia

  5. January 29, 2010 7:04 am

    Hi Heather, glad to note our contact info is sorted out. Some of the other bits are going through, albeit slowly…. and providing info on various policies and attachments (some of which we may not have ever created before!) is a tedious responsibility.

    As you say, however, Guidestar is the lodestone of non-profit data – it attracts all the various charity and non-profit portals to suck info out of it – so it’s important to keep all the information as current as possible.

  6. January 29, 2010 8:13 am

    First of all, I’d like to respond to the comment that GuideStar is necessary to “prevent people from creating fake nonprofits.” Isn’t that why we went though the long involved process of filling out the 20+ page IRS application with all sorts of legal documentation in order to be sanctioned as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit through the Federal Government?

    Quite honestly, I do not understand how GuideStar got itself involved in all of this. It looks like they have created a system, whereby foundations pay them to collect data. Then, by inventing a process, which now seems necessary, they keep their business going. And, somehow, they have convinced the IRS to automatically send them information about newly formed nonprofit organizations, which has resulted in our nonprofit’s all being trapped in their system.

    Donors do not want us spending more than a very small percentage of our funding on operating expenses, yet by having to go through this time consuming process with GuideStar, now there is one more thing to take our resources.

    This morning, I rec’d an email offer of assistance from a GuideStar representative, as a result of her having read my posting on this site. Hallelujah, it looks like help may be on the way! I must say, that, as long as we are all going to be forced into their system, I was very impressed that she went to the trouble of reaching out to me.

    Now let’s see what happens next.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 30, 2010 5:02 am

      Hi… rather GuideStar prevents fake nonprofits from fundraising online. Anyone can create a fake website and start using PayPal (which is why many donors won’t donate through PayPal), but GuideStar is the system that verifies legal 501c3s to be able to use NFG Donate Now buttons, JustGive, Facebook Cause, Give a Tweet,, Razzoo, etc. So while tedious, they are providing a very useful and necessary verification system that enables online fundraising (which increased 46% in 2009). They are a nice group of people… and overwhelmed like all of us, so please have patience with them. Good luck!

  7. March 5, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thanks for posting this! We were granted our 501c3 status a little over 3 weeks ago so are diligently working towards jumping on all the social media avenues we can. We already have a Facebook fan page but wanted to create a ’cause’ page. Is it right that you need a guidestar profile to create a ’cause’ page? I just checked on guidestar and we (drawchange Inc.) aren’t on there yet. Any idea how long it takes for them to regonize us?

    Thanks so much for any and all answers!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      March 10, 2010 3:47 pm

      Hi… yes… you do need to be in GuideStar to create a Cause… usually takes 2-3 weeks. Good luck!

  8. March 10, 2010 4:56 pm

    ~Drawchange, our next board of directors meeting will be filled with implementing policies requested in order to obtain the coveted GuideStar Exchange Seal. Those policies include: Conflict of Interest (you most likely already have this as part of your 501(c)(3) application process- our board members will be signing the annually required statement that they have read this); Non-Discrimination; Whistleblower; and Document Retention Schedule & Destruction. GuideStar also requires an Annual Report; Financial Statements; an Auditor’s Report; electronic copy of your 990; and info on Senior Staff Members.

    As a small nonprofit, we have not needed an auditor nor do we have Senior (or any) Staff Members. Now I’m wondering if not having those will keep us from obtaining the GuideStar Exchange Seal.

    As an aside, although the gov’t wants you to keep documentation that you have obtained quotes on getting liability insurance every year, the $700. a year in premiums is more than our current operating budget for the year.

    I continue to maintain that a lot of the documentation that GuideStar is requiring simply does not apply to small non-profits and not being able to obtain the “Exchange Seal” makes us look like we are not following established practises – not good!

    I wish you all the best with your new nonprofit & with navigating GuideStar!

  9. March 15, 2010 9:22 am

    Here is a new website that should be of interest to most of you – – our groundbreaking new cost efficient fundraising platform. It’s free for charities to be listed and ANY charity anywhere can be added. Xperedon – revolutionising charity fundraising.

  10. jessie permalink
    November 18, 2010 10:42 am

    Why Guidestar is irrelevant:

    There is a very simple way to verify a nonprofit that does not involve guidestar:,,id=96136,00.html

    There is a very simple way to view 990 filings of nonprofits that does not involve guidestar and does not require any work whatsoever on the part of the nonprofit:

    Spread the word and make onerous systems like Guidestar irrelevant.

    Oh – and the Network for Good facebook causes page has raised exactly $20 on its own behalf, which belies how vital these online giving programs are. Check it. Not only that, but you have to make your org a cause on facebook – network for good doesn’t do that for you – the article is misleading…

    Our Cause Contribution: $20
    Top Fundraisers
    Michael – $10 raised
    Kendra donated $10. 1 year ago
    Stacie donated $5. over 3 years ago
    Bill donated $5. over 3 years ago

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 18, 2010 11:00 am

      Sorry, but you are missing the Big Picture. Guidestar is a database that empowers online fundraising. JustGive, NetworkforGood (the largest processor of donation on the country),, Razoo, Causes, GiveaTweet… all of them use the Guidestar database.

      And you don’t have to to create a Cause to use Network for Good (Where did you get that… #$!?), and many nonprofits have used Causes to raise more than $27 million dollars:

      All processed by Network for Good via the Guidestar database. Yeah… you can verify a nonprofit here:

      But how can you donate to that nonprofits through that link? Or this link:,,id=96136,00.html

      You are not understanding the technology behind online fundraising. And why be so rude about it!? And I had go back an edit you entry… so not cool to publish people’s names.


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