GuideStar ‘Impact Call’ Advocates Transparency Model

February 28, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

1031820_conference_2GuideStar, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote transparency among the nonprofit community, delivered its first “impact call” Feb. 24 to publicly report its own results and “to jump-start the conversation on how transparency is defined and conveyed.” Transparency is proving to be a ever-increasing buzzword among nonprofits, as well as for all federal grants stakeholders.

GuideStar used a model of quarterly earnings reports often disseminated by publicly owned companies, and identified four transparency definitions: timely, interactive, inclusive and comprehensive. These provided the context for GuideStar’s own presentation and a model for others in the nonprofit community to follow. Even in the public sector, programs and recipients of federal awards understand the focus on transparency. This model brings the concept of impact into reporting and sharing.

At the heart of the discussion, a participant asked how to chart impact. “It’s important to tell compelling stories but show the relevant data,” said Jacob Harold, GuideStar’s president and chief executive officer. The combined strategies of qualitative data through the narrative story and quantitative data provided by statistics and financial information allow for innovation in reporting.

“Our strategy has been to collect data, distribute data and innovate,” said Harold. In 2001, for example, GuideStar expanded its database to include special 9/11 funds and programs in response to the tragedy at the World Trade Center. Its data became integrated with the New York State Attorney General’s Office for the WTC Relief Information site. Recently, GuideStar entered into a partnership with Amazon.com through its Amazon Smile initiative. Amazon Smile allows shoppers to support a favorite charitable organization by using the smile.amazon.com website instead of the traditional amazon.com site. Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to the designated charity.

The four transparency definitions offered by GuideStar and the practice of matching stories to numbers can help nonprofits and grant recipients reflect impact in their reporting. GuideStar encourages nonprofits to report, share information and work toward transparency. “GuideStar led the first revolution in nonprofit transparency by posting IRS Forms 990 online nearly two decades ago,” said Harold. “Now we’re helping to lead a second revolution. We want to expand the definition of transparency to be more timely, interactive, inclusive and comprehensive.”

Do you have a good impact story? Have you used GuideStar’s data and services? We’d like to know. 

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