GuideStar Analysis Finds 9 Out of 10 Nonprofits Embracing On-line Disclosure but More Can Be Done

First annual nonprofit transparency report reviews disclosure practices, recommends steps for increasing public’s trust in nonprofits
Release date: March 18, 2009
Washington, D.C., and Williamsburg, Va.—A new report by GuideStar, the leading provider of nonprofit information, reveals that 93 percent of nonprofits post information about their missions and programs on their Web sites, but that significantly fewer disclose other key information via the Internet.

The State of Nonprofit Transparency, 2008: Voluntary Disclosure Practices is the first comprehensive look at nonprofits' use of the Internet to communicate information to the public. Based on a review of 1,837 nonprofit Web sites and follow-up phone and e-mail surveys, the report offers four key findings:

  • Some 93 percent of nonprofits disclosed information about their programs and services via the Internet. Three-quarters of this number also posted board and key staff members’ names.
  • Only 43 percent posted their annual reports.
  • Only 13 percent posted their audited financial statements.
  • Only 3 percent posted their IRS letters of determination, even though it is a public document.
GuideStar, a pioneer in advancing nonprofit transparency, recommends five steps nonprofits can take to increase transparency. "We believe that sharing relevant and timely information is essential to building and maintaining the public's trust in the nonprofit sector," said Bob Ottenhoff, GuideStar's president and CEO. We also believe that the Internet is the fundamental tool for achieving greater nonprofit transparency."

GuideStar recommends that every nonprofit:

  • Regularly update its Web site with current, detailed program and evaluation information.
  • Post brief bios for board members and key staff, instead of just their names.
  • Post its annual report, if it produces one.
  • Post its audited financial statement, if it has one.
  • Post its IRS letters of determination, if it has one.
"We hope that this report will inspire nonprofit leaders to act, to become more transparent, and to use their own Web sites and sites such as GuideStar to tell the important stories of how their work is making a difference," Ottenhoff added.

Download a free copy of The State of Nonprofit Transparency >

About GuideStar

GuideStar, www.guidestar.org, connects people and organizations with information on the programs and finances of more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized nonprofits. GuideStar serves a wide audience inside and outside the nonprofit sector, including individual donors, nonprofit leaders, grantmakers, government officials, academic researchers, and the media.

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