Founded 1994
Founder Arthur "Buzz" Schmidt
Type Non-profit Organization
Focus Nonprofit Information
Origins Williamsburg, VA
Area served
United States
Product Nonprofit Analysis Solutions
Key people
Jacob Harold, James Lum, Evan Paul, James Dobrzeniecki, Debra Snider, Mizmun Kusairi
Slogan Better data for better decisions for a better world.
Mission To revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.[1]

GuideStar USA, Inc. is an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies. In 2010, their database contained over 5 million IRS Forms 990 on 1.9 million organizations.[2]

GuideStar was one of the first central sources of information on U.S. nonprofits.[3] According to the company, GuideStar was founded in Williamsburg, Virginia, in September 1994 and received tax-exempt status in 1996,[4] the same year the company began posting nonprofit organizations' financial reports to the World Wide Web.[5]

GuideStar's operations include data digitization, database management and development, nonprofit services, web site operations and research. GuideStar also serves to verify that a recipient organization is established and that donated funds go where the donor intended for individuals looking to give in the wake of disasters[6] or during the holiday season.[7] Those interested in reviewing a nonprofit's recent Forms 990 can register at and download them for free, however most other information is available for a fee.[8]


GuideStar, formerly known as Philanthropic Research, Inc., was founded in Williamsburg, Virginia, in September 1994 by Arthur "Buzz" Schmidt as a company dedicated to making charitable giving more efficient by providing easily accessible nonprofit information.[9] GuideStar officially received tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) public charity in 1996. In July 1996, GuideStar published the GuideStar Directory of American Charities, a CD and printed index that presented full reports on 35,000 charities and partial reports on 7,000 other charities.[10] That fall, GuideStar officially launched its website, allowing it to update the data more frequently and provide more extensive information.[11] GuideStar proceeded to post information on all 501(c)(3) nonprofits listed in the IRS Business Master File, and by December 1997, the database held information on more than 600,000 nonprofits.[12][13] From there, in 1998, GuideStar provided digitized 990 data on its Web site’s individual public charities pages.[14][15] In October 1999, GuideStar began posting 501(c)(3) public charities’ annual information returns, known as IRS Forms 990 and 990-EZ.[16] In 2001, GuideStar was known as the nation's premier nonprofit database, at the time offering financial information on more than 850,000 organizations.[17]

In February 2002, former PBS Chief Operating Officer Robert G. Ottenhoff[18] took on Schmidt's role as president, and Schmidt became Chairman of GuideStar's board.[19]

Since the turn of the millennium, GuideStar has expanded its database and its tools and services for understanding and managing nonprofit data:

Awards & Recognition

In January 1998, GuideStar received an award for Nonprofit Web Site Excellence from Philanthropy Journal, with an honorable mention for "Service to the Sector" for its searchable database of (at that time) more than 620,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations.[63]

GuideStar won the InfoCommerce Model of Excellence Award in 2004 by the Infocommerce Group consulting firm, for distinction in database information publishing.[64]

In 2012, founder and board chair Buzz Schmidt and board member Virginia Hodgkinson were recognized by The NonProfit Times as two of the Top 25 individuals who have shaped the charitable sector in the last 25 years.[65]

GuideStar’s Chief Financial Officer James Lum was awarded the 2014 Nonprofit CFO Transformational Leader Award at the 2014 Nonprofit CFO of the Year Awards Luncheon on January 31, 2014.[66]

In August 2014, GuideStar's President and CEO Jacob Harold was named on the 2014 Power and Influence Top 50 list by the NonProfit Times (NPT).[67]


  1. "GuideStar". Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  2. Walzer, Philip (2010). "Williamsburg's GuideStar pushes quiet revolution", The Virginian-Pilot, 21 October 2010
  3. "Gates Foundation Pledges $3-Million to GuideStar to Enhance Nonprofit Database". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 10 November 2014.
  4. GuideStar History
  5. Rawe, Julie (2001). "Where Does Your Gift Go?", Time Magazine, 28 October 2001
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  16. Cay Johnston, David (20 November 2000). "ACCOUNTABILITY; For Checking Out a Charity, Remember the Number 990". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
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  18. & Karen Everhart Bedford, Steve Behrens. "Rumors rampant as Ottenhoff steps down". Current Online. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
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  21. Wooster, Martin Morse. "Paying Charity CEOs". American Enterprise. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  22. Editors (20 September 2001). "Internet scams are exploiting the generosity of Americans helping the victims of the terrorist attacks". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  23. Editors (18 February 2002). "IRS CLEARS CREATION OF CHARITIES, LITTLE OVERSIGHT, NO FOLLOW-UP SINCE SEPT. 11 ATTACKS". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
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  29. Wallace, Nicole. "Federal Program Awards $13.95-Million". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  30. Wallack, Todd (24 June 2011). "Checking on charities to become easier / State attorney general's office signs contract to update Web site". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
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  33. Editors, GuideStar. "Just in Time for the Giving Season, GuideStar Launches Improved Search". Business Wire. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  34. nonprofitorgs. "What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About GuideStar, Network for Good and Social Media Fundraising". Nonprofit Tech 2.0. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  35. Staff, Join Together. "Get Listed on the GuideStar Exchange". The Partnership at Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  36. Authors, Multiple. "What Drives Foundation Expenses" (PDF). Urban Institute Report. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  37. Ogden, Tim. "The Worst (and Best) Way to Pick A Charity This Year". The Jack Miller Center. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  38. Smith, Pete. "Checking out Checkpoint". Nonprofit Musings. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  39. Vitanov, Deyan. "Announcing TakeAction@GuideStar!". Philanthropedia Blog. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
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  41. "Philanthropedia". The Arc Blog.
  42. "Helping Nonprofit Organizations Explore Their Goals and Progress". Hewlett Foundation Newsroom. Hewlett Foundation. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
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  44. Bernholz, Lucy. "Philanthropy 2173". Putting Data in Context. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  45. "Jacob Harold Selected To Head GuideStar". The NonProfit Times. July 19, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  46. Reiss, Norman. "Attracting New Donors to Support Your Nonprofit". Nonprofit Bridge. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  47. Hopfensperger, Jean. "Philanthropy beat: Salaries drop for nonprofit leaders". StarTribune. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  48. Avery, Sarah. "The Next Level of Transparency: GuideStar Exchange". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  49. Cunniffe, Eileen. "GuideStar to Collect Nonprofit Governance Information in League with BoardSource". Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
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  56. "GuideStar Hosts the First Impact Call". redOrbit. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  57. "Gates Foundation Pledges $3-Million to GuideStar to Enhance Nonprofit Database". The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  58. Ruth McCambridge (17 September 2013). "GuideStar Compensation Report: Gender Gap in Nonprofit Pay Persists". Non Profit News - Nonprofit Quarterly.
  59. "GuideStar Unveils Online Tool to Gauge Nonprofits' Diversity". The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  60. "Technology Affinity Group".
  61. "Notes on nonprofits: Compelling stories attract people to your cause". Tallahassee Democrat. 16 November 2014.
  62. "$3 Million From Gates To GuideStar". The NonProfit Times.
  63. White, Daphne. "Cyberspace Fundraising". Foundation News & Commentary. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  64. Editors, InfoCommerce. "2004 Award Winners". InfoCommerce. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  65. "The Best & The Brightest, Mostly" (PDF). The NonProfit Times. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  66. "Executive Voices: An interview with GuideStar CFO James Lum, a 2014 Transformational Leader". Association Trends. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  67. Clolery, Paul. "Power and Influence Top 50: Honorees Insist On A Civil Society and Chart A Path Toward It" (PDF). The NonProfit Times. Retrieved August 7, 2014.

External links

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