GuideStar: A Brief History

September 6, 1994
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Philanthropic Research, Inc. (a.k.a. GuideStar) opened its doors with a staff of five: founder Buzz Schmidt and four employees

July 1996
Directory of American Charities CD

GuideStar Directory of American Charities published

  • Full reports on 35,000 public charities
  • Partial reports on 7,000 other charities
October 1996
First GuideStar Web site
  • Received 501(c)(3) public charity status
  • launched

    • Information on more than 40,000 public charities
    • Reports included data on revenue and expenses and a balance sheet
GuideStar expanded its database to more than 60,000 charities

GuideStar database expanded

  • All 501(c)(3) public charities in the IRS Business Master charities File included
  • Digitized Form 990 data added to charities' reports
January 1998
Award for Nonprofit Web Site Excellence
Received Nonprofit Web Site Excellence Award from Philanthropy Journal Online
October 18, 1999
The New York Times logo
Posting of PDFs of Forms 990 and 990-EZ for more than 200,000 public charities announced on the front page of the New York Times Business section
December 1999 Nonprofit Executive of the Year plaque awarded to Buzz Schmidt NonProfit Times names GuideStar founder and president Buzz Schmidt Nonprofit Executive of the Year
March 2000
Form 990-PF posted on GuideStar
PDFs of private foundations' Forms 990-PF posted
June 2001
Compensation Report logo

First annual GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report published

  • Based on IRS returns of nearly 75,000 public charities
  • 14 job categories
  • Nine income categories
  • More than 400 program categories
  • More than 260 metropolitan statistical areas
September 2001
New York State Attorney General's Office for WTC Relief Info site
  • Expanded database to include all 501(c) tax-exempt organizations eligible to accept tax-deductible contributions
  • Added special 9/11 funds and programs
  • Provided data to New York State Attorney General's Office for WTC Relief Info site
November 2001
Charity Check logo

GuideStar Charity Check launched

  • Direct link from charity's GuideStar Report to its IRS Publication 78 record
  • Faster, more efficient due diligence for grantmakers
February 2002
Bob Ottenhoff
Former PBS chief operating officer Robert G. Ottenhoff named second GuideStar president
October 2003
Technology Opportunities Program logo

Received Department of Commerce TOP grant

  • Funded substantial portion of costs of building NASCONet for the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO)
  • Enabled state regulators to share information
InfoCommerce Model of Excellence Award logo

Won the InfoCommerce Model of Excellence Award for distinction in database information publishing

June 2004
California Attorney General's Office logo
California Attorney General's Office joined forces with GuideStar to develop upgraded Charities Search powered by customized version of GuideStar database and search engine
September 2004
birthday cake

Celebrated 10 years of revolutionizing philanthropy with information

  • More than 1 million charitable organizations in the database
  • 20,000 users a day
  • More than 1.5 million digitized Forms 990
  • 85,000 nonprofits added information beyond their financial data
  • 44 employees
November 2004
GuideStar Membership logo

GuideStar Membership Program created to offer foundations and corporations the opportunity to fund GuideStar's efforts to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice with information

March 2005
United States Senate logo

GuideStar cited as resource for nonprofit information in the Interim Report of the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector delivered to the Senate Finance Committee

June 2005
New GuideStar site
  • New Web site launched
  • Database expanded by 340,000 nonprofits to include all tax-exempt organizations registered with the IRS
  • GuideStar Premium, advanced service for professional users, launched
November 2006
Search button

New, more powerful search engine launched, making it even easier for users to find the data needed to make informed decisions

December 2007
donation box

On-line donation capabilities launched in partnership with Network for Good

March 2009 GreatNonprofits logo

Ability to read and write nonprofit reviews added to revamped Web site courtesy partnership with GreatNonprofits

January 2010 GuideStar Premium logo

Five new features added to GuideStar Premium, GuideStar's flagship product

April 2010 TakeAction@GuideStar logo

TakeAction@GuideStar launched, giving donors a new way to find nonprofits on GuideStar and additional information on them, including expert reviews and analyses

March 2011 Philanthropedia icon Announced plans to acquire innovative social-impact organizations Philanthropedia and Social Actions
May 2011 Charting Impact logo Charting Impact launched in partnership with BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Independent Sector, providing a standard framework for nonprofits to inform stakeholder about objectives, progress benchmarks, and impact
September 2011 Close-up of 2011 GuideStar Nonprofit Contractor Directory cover 2011 GuideStar Directory of Nonprofit Contractors published
  • Only report of its kind
  • Lists 13,000 businesses that provided services to 14,000-plus nonprofits, the nonprofits that purchased the services, and what the organizations paid for those services
April 2012 Buzz Schmidt and Virginia Hodgkinson GuideStar founder and former board chair Buzz Schmidt and former board member Virginia Hodgkinson named by Nonprofit Times as two of the top 25 individuals who shaped the charitable sector in the previous 25 years
April 2012 GuideStar Membership Program logo Membership Program expanded to reach out to new audiences, provide additional privileges, and offer tiered pricing structures
April 2012 Financial SCAN logo Financial SCAN launched in partnership with Nonprofit Finance Fund, creating the first online platform to provide a comprehensive picture of a nonprofit's financial health
October 2012 Jacob Harold Hewlett Foundation program officer Jacob Harold takes over as third president of GuideStar
June 2013 Overhead Myth loog Overhead Myth campaign, an initiative to educate donors about the inadvisability of relying solely on overhead ratios to evaluate nonprofits, launched in partnership with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator
June 2013 GuideStar Premium Pro logo GuideStar Premium Pro launched, providing more financial search capabilities along with greater breadth and depth of data
June 2013 Gold GuideStar Exchange logo Revamped GuideStar Exchange launched, offering three levels of participation and expanded benefits to nonprofits
September 2013 Foundation Center logo Strategic partnership with the Foundation Center announced
November 2013 Simplify logo Simplify, a new approach to information sharing between funders and grantees, launched in partnership with the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) to streamline the grant application process for both grantmakers and nonprofits
November 2013 Financial SCAN logo Version 2.0 of Financial SCAN launched in partnership with Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), offering expanded peer comparison capabilities, Excel download feature, new pricing, and a longer Nonprofit Express Pass
January 2014 James Lum CFO James Lum awarded the 2014 Nonprofit CFO Transformational Leader Award at the 2014 Nonprofit CFO of the Year Awards Luncheon
August 2014 Logo for 2014 NPT Top 50 President and CEO Jacob Harold named to the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50
September 2014 GuideStar 2020, logo for GuideStar's 20th anniversary GuideStar's 20th anniversary, an occasion to look forward to launching the second revolution in nonprofit transparency: transparency that drives nonprofit effectiveness
October 2014 gender.png First-of-kind program to collect diversity data from nonprofits at scale launched in collaboration with D5 and Green 2.0
January 2016 Profile_Composite_Audubon_small.jpg Redesigned Nonprofit Profiles launched, featuring reorganized data, interactive data visualizations, and more meaningful pre-calculated financial metrics
May 2016 platinum-200x146.jpg GuideStar Platinum launched, enabling nonprofits to share progress and results and offer alternative to the Overhead Ratio
August 2016 new-search-2.png Revamped, state-of-the-art search launched, bringing faster results and real-time filtering
May 2017 local-nonprofit-directory-220w.png GuideStar Local Nonprofit Directory launched