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GuideStar: For the Giving Time of Year

By Joan Plungis

This giving time of year is the perfect time to try out a new addition to the Libraries' databases — GuideStar, a great resource for information about U.S. nonprofit organizations and charitable institutions. It can help you evaluate their programs and financials as you decide where to best direct your donations. Most of the data in GuideStar comes from IRS Form 990s, but organizations can also add information to their profiles. GuideStar also links to ratings posted by individuals on the external Charity Navigator site.  

In addition to being searchable by organization name or keyword, GuideStar can be searched by many data points within the broad categories of geography, organization and financials. Geographic location choices include state, radius from a ZIP code, metropolitan statistical area (MSA), city or county. Among filters within the Organization category are NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities), the system used by the IRS to classify the primary charitable activities of nonprofit organizations; GuideStar Profile level, referring to the amount of information a nonprofit has directly shared on its GuideStar Nonprofit Profile; and IRS form type (990 or 990PF). Financial filters include several choices within revenue, expenses and assets. GuideStar also features a people search function.

A limited version of GuideStar has long been freely available on the web, but the Libraries’ subscription is to GuideStar Pro, which allows up to 1,000 downloads per month (after setting up an individual account). These examples of GuideStar Pro searches show several other ways to use the product to analyze nonprofit organizations.

Whether you are looking for possible recipients of your charitable dollars based on location or purpose, or you want to check out a known organization, GuideStar will provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.

— Joan Plungis is an associate professor and reference and instruction librarian

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