Expert Report on Charity Reform Highlights GuideStar's Role and Importance

Release date: March 1, 2005
Williamsburg, Va., and Washington, D.C.—The importance of the role GuideStar, the national database of nonprofit information, plays in the nonprofit sector was underscored today by Independent Sector in the report it delivered to the Senate Finance Committee.

Prepared by a panel of nonprofit experts at the request of the committee, the report makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving accountability and financial transparency within the nonprofit sector. The report notes, "Currently, some annual information returns [IRS Forms 990] filed by public charities are available online, free of charge, at GuideStar."

"GuideStar is proud to play such a key role in promoting financial transparency and greater accountability in the nonprofit sector," said Robert G. Ottenhoff, GuideStar's president and CEO. "For over a decade, GuideStar has worked with dozens of states and several federal agencies to improve information about the sector as well as to provide critical information to donors, the media, and the public at large. Last year, more than 5 million unique users came to www.guidestar.org to find charity information; some 3 million of these visitors came specifically to access the Forms 990. GuideStar has become the nation's public disclosure site."

The report continues, "GuideStar is engaged in another project, NASCONet, in cooperation with the National Center for Charitable Statistics and the National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO), to create an online database that will permit greater sharing of information between state and federal regulators and the public." Ottenhoff stated, "NASCOnet is another example of the value of GuideStar's work. By making nonprofit data easily available to charity officials, NASCOnet enhances oversight efforts at both the state and federal levels."

GuideStar's activities are made possible by a unique three-way public-private partnership: the IRS provides the 990s, charitable foundations provide resources for making the data publicly available, and nonprofits voluntarily provide information about their missions and activities. Government regulators, grantmakers, the nonprofits themselves, and the media all rely on this public service. Last year, more than 90,000 charitable organizations added data about their missions, programs, goals, and accomplishments to GuideStar.

In the coming weeks, GuideStar will launch a new service that will enable exempt organizations to post their audited financial statements, letters of determination or advance rulings, and other due-diligence documents on the GuideStar Web site.

About GuideStar

GuideStar, www.guidestar.org, offers information about the programs and finances of 1.7 million IRS-recognized charitable organizations. GuideStar powers many on-line giving systems and distributes both free and subscription-based nonprofit data to grantmakers, nonprofits, donors, government charity regulators, and professionals serving the sector.

GuideStar has also developed NASCOnet, a Web application enabling state and federal regulators to track organizations and share information about them, for the National Association of State Charity Officials. NASCOnet's development is funded by a Department of Commerce TOP grant.

To find out more about GuideStar, go to www.guidestar.org.

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