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Use of Guidestar, the website that houses the Forms 990 for many nonprofits, reflects the changes that the public demands, as well as what the nonprofit community demands of itself - proof by a nonprofit that it's worthy of donations.
Guidestar business development director Bunkie Righter discussed this in her presentation "From Accountability to Impact," in the opening general session of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs annual not-for-profit symposium this week at the Omni Shoreham hotel.
Righter said that the three big trends in giving today are legitimacy and trust, effectiveness and efficiency, and economics.
For a while now, donors and grant makers have demanded greater transparency and accountability from nonprofits. At first, the nonprofit community was very wary about having their financials and other information readily available to the public when Guidestar first went online in the early '90s. Now, Righter said, being accountable and open is a selling point for nonprofits, some which get anxious when their information is not updated as swiftly as the organization has made the new information available.
Another trend is that people, especially younger people,want to cultivate a greater personal engagement in philanthropy, not just through donations. In fact, Righter pointed out that people use Guidestar for reviews of a nonprofit, to verify a nonprofit's legitimacy as well as to get basic financial information before becoming more engaged.
But the recent economy still is having an impact. While donations are making a comeback - $298 billion in 2011, up from a recent low of $292 billion in2009 - getting back to pre-recession levels will be difficult - $336 billion in 2007, for instance. Details: www.guidestar.org.