A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Nonprofit’s GuideStar Profile

Your GuideStar nonprofit profile should put your best foot forward when it comes to connecting with potential donors, funders, and partners. The best profiles include a clear snapshot of an organization's mission, primary goals, impact, leadership, and financials. In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about GuideStar by Candid, including how to claim and edit your nonprofit profile and how to get a seal of transparency.

8 minutes read
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Nonprofit’s GuideStar Profile

GuideStar by Candid is one of the most used ranking websites for donors, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations. As a nonprofit, your GuideStar profile is an excellent chance to spread the word about your organization to people who may have never heard of you otherwise. Foundations and corporations can use GuideStar to find organizations doing work they care about. Whether you have already started working on your GuideStar profile or just found out about this website, the following steps will help you create a profile that can help you find new donors, increase your online outreach, and strengthen your image.

What is GuideStar for Nonprofits?

GuideStar for Nonprofits

GuideStar by Candid was created to share nonprofits’ detailed financial information with donors, foundations, and corporations. This same information can be found through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but GuideStar and other websites like it have made finding this information more accessible.

Nonprofits can also share information about their mission, programming, and leadership. This helps with nonprofit transparency and builds donor trust.

Nonprofits can benefit from this website because it increases the likelihood of getting noticed by foundations and donors who wouldn’t have found you otherwise. This is especially true for smaller nonprofits.

Your image online is essential to companies and donors in your communities. In the past, nonprofits could only spread the word about their organization through paid media or word of mouth. Nonprofits could have been around for decades without the majority of people knowing about the work they did. Search engines like GuideStar have made finding these smaller nonprofits easier.

What is a GuideStar Nonprofit Profile?

A GuideStar nonprofit profile is a place where nonprofits can share the following information:

  • Name
  • Ruling year (the year the IRS granted tax-exempt status)
  • Title and name of key leadership like executive director
  • Employer Identification Number 
  • National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities code
  • Main address
  • Programming
  • Form 990 for the last three fiscal years

And more.

If you take a look at GuideStar, you can find a profile for every nonprofit in your community. The majority of these profiles might be bare-boned. The reason is that most nonprofits have yet to leverage the great potential of a GuideStar nonprofit profile. These unfinished profiles will not give you an in-depth look at what the nonprofits do or why you may want to support them.

Creating your own GuideStar profile places you a step above other organizations in your area. Your GuideStar profile can be designed to achieve specific goals like finding more grants or major donors. You can provide only the public financial information organizations and donors can find with the IRS, or you can highlight the areas of your organization that make you most proud and help donors and foundations find you.

Benefits to Having a GuideStar Profile

Like we mentioned before, every nonprofit that has filed with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization is likely to have a GuideStar profile. The difference we are discussing here is adding information that highlights your organization’s successes and uniqueness.

Candid mentions a number of these benefits on its website, but we have also included more reasons why smaller nonprofits can find great success using GuideStar.

1. Highlights your programs and community impact

GuideStar allows nonprofits to further explain their organization, its programs, and the impact they have had on their community. Nonprofits can choose which programs they want to highlight and share successes they have had with beneficiaries and donors.

Nonprofits can also speak directly to foundations about how their successes can provide accomplishments to the foundation. This type of targeting can be essential in finding the right donors and foundations for your next grant.

2. Helps you reach more donors and foundations

Smaller organizations have depended on word of mouth, annual events, and paid media promotions to reach newer donors. Since the increased popularity of social media, companies like Facebook and YouTube have allowed nonprofits to reach more donors with free and paid advertisements. Social media is essential to marketing your nonprofit, but it’s only part of the story.

Anyone who understands online marketing will point out the importance of your SEO or Search Engine Optimization. SEO is how you raise your profile on Google and other search engines. These search engines are becoming one of the first ways donors look for nonprofits that speak to their passions. By creating an in-depth profile on GuideStar, you can target donors and foundations that want to give to nonprofits like yours.

Pro tip: For example, if you are a nonprofit that works with special needs children, you can use keywords highlighting this fact. You can also link your profile to your other places online like your website, social media accounts, and any blogs or articles you have written on the subject for other publications.

3. Increases donations to your organization

SEO is not the only way improving your GuideStar profile can help your organization. By adding to your nonprofit’s profile, you are marketing to donors and giving them reasons to donate. GuideStar has made it easier for donors to give to the organizations that catch their eye without visiting the organization’s website.

Plus, being transparent builds donor trust. This is a crucial element of the donor cultivation cycle, as donors are more likely to donate – and donate larger amounts – to organizations they trust.

4. Features the diversity of your staff and board of directors

Foundations and corporations are interested in finding nonprofits with diverse staff and boards. These businesses have realized the importance of reaching out to diverse communities and even hiring staff to look for ways to connect. By adding that you have different races, ethnicities, genders, and perspectives on your board or staff, you will stand out to these organizations and potentially build a new business relationship that can benefit your nonprofit for years to come.

5. Helps You Research Private Grant Foundations

Private grant foundations are often registered as 501(c) organizations with the IRS. This means they have their own GuideStar profile. Their profile may also include contact information and data on the types of programs they fund. If your nonprofit is looking for grants, you can find more information on foundations that provide grants to organizations like yours with GuideStar. When you search organizations by zip code with GuideStar, you will find a list of foundations in your area.

8 Steps to Create and Updating Your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile

Updating your nonprofit’s GuideStar profile is as simple or complicated as you make it. You may only want to include your website and social media links along with information on your programs, or you may want to include more details on the impacts your nonprofit has had on the community you serve.

Here’s how you can easily create and update your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile in eight steps.

1. Claim your GuideStar Profile

Your nonprofit may already have a profile on GuideStar because someone else started it and forgot about it or because it was created after you registered with the IRS. To make any changes to your current profile, you must first claim it.

After clicking on the link, you can either make an account or sign in to the account already created. If you are creating a new account, you will need to have your organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) so make sure you have that information at your fingertips.

2. Get Approved

It will not take long for GuideStar to approve your new account, but they must verify your connection to the organization prior to allowing you access.

3. Add facts and figures

Once you have been approved, you can add as much information as you’d like. Remember, you are speaking directly to donors, foundations, and companies that can provide your organization with large amounts of funding. Correct information here is vital, and certain seals require sharing more information.

Best practices for your GuideStar by Candid profile include adding basic information about your organization like name, address, key leader name & title, and information about your tax-exempt status. What you include in the written response portions of your profile is up to you. Get specific, but not so specific that your profile might quickly become out of date. For example, stay away from including dates – if you don’t get around to updating your profile regularly, outdated information might turn some donors or foundations away from your organization.

4. Earn your Candid Seal of Transparency

Transparency is a key concern to many donors and foundations. GuideStar by Candid has provided a way to help your nonprofit stand out when providing this transparency with their Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum seals. Your organization will earn these seals depending on the amount of information you provide.

4.1 GuideStar Bronze Seal of Transparency

The Bronze seal is for organizations just getting started with GuideStar. Your organization will earn this seal after adding your nonprofit’s:

  1. Mission statement
  2. Primary contact details
  3. Board and executive director information
  4. Donation information

4.2 GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency

Your nonprofit can earn a Silver Seal after including:

  1. Information on your organization’s programs
  2. Branding details like logos, website, and social media links
  3. And the information required to get a Bronze seal

4.3 GuideStar Gold Seal of Transparency

As your organization grows, you will be looking for more significant donations and grants. These major donors and foundations require detailed financial data. GuideStar allows nonprofits to add this information to their profile and will award your organization with a Gold seal:

  1. Audited financial report or basic financial information
  2. Board chairperson’s name
  3. The demographics or your board and staff (remember, some foundations are looking specifically for nonprofits with diverse boards and staff)
  4. And the information required to get a Silver seal

4.4 GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency

Finally, the Platinum Seal is the top rating for transparency with GuideStar. Organizations that include the following facts and details will receive this seal:

  1. A strategic plan or strategy
  2. Highlights of financial and program goals the organization has reached
  3. One or more metrics demonstrating your progress
  4. And the information required to get a Gold seal

5. Opt to receive donations

GuideStar makes it easy for donors to give to your organization through their partners like Facebook and Salesforce.

Once you’ve created and published your profile, locate the “Donation Options” section. Now toggle “Allow donors to give to my organization through GuideStar partners” option to “On.”

Save your preference by clicking “Publish Now.”

how to create guidestar profile for nonprofit

6. Add a logo, photos, and videos to your GuideStar profile

Adding your logo will definitely add credibility to your nonprofit profile on GuideStar. It also makes your profile look branded. Additional images and videos of your board members speaking about the cause or the on-ground work of volunteers will show your potential donors and funders more about your important work.

Adding videos and photos is as easy as uploading them or embedding with a link.

7. Upload IRS documents

You should upload your form 990 and letter of determination on your GuideStar nonprofit profile. This not only helps you earn a better seal for your nonprofit profile but also makes you stand out for funders and donors.

GuideStar receives form 990 directly from the IRS; however, they encourage nonprofits to do it themselves to avoid delay.

how to create guidestar profile for nonprofit

Adding your letter of determination is also quite simple on GuideStar. All you have to do is browse the document and upload it. This proves your current tax-exempt status.

8. Invite additional managers to your GuideStar profile

In the end, it’s good to have additional people helping you manage your GuideStar profile. You can add the email addresses of these people to your profile under the “Assign managers
tab. Learn more about this process here.

how to create guidestar profile for nonprofit

You can also remove existing managers from your profile. Having the right managers on your account can help keep your nonprofit profile up to date and full of helpful information.

Final Thoughts

GuideStar by Candid is a well-known name for a reason. This company has done its best to provide donors and funders with comprehensive information on nonprofits. The ease of finding this information is why so many people and companies use this search engine. Nonprofits that ignore their GuideStar profile are already behind their competitors for grants and major donors.

This article was created to help your organization understand the importance of creating a GuideStar profile. We also hope it helped dispel any concerns you may have had about the difficulty of creating your profile. It is easier than you may think!

Donorbox provides nonprofits with tips and resources, like the one you just read, every week. Visit our blog to learn more ways to stand out in your community and raise funds online. If you are searching for an affordable option to collect donations online, visit our website to learn more about our online donation platform.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ll answer some frequently asked questions on GuideStar nonprofit profile creation.

1. Can your Seal of Transparency Expire?

Yes, GuideStar’s seals of transparency are only good if for two years you do not update the information on your profile.

2. What does it cost to list your organization on GuideStar?

All nonprofits who register with the IRS as a 501(c) organization will automatically have a profile on GuideStar. This profile costs the organization nothing and will include only the public information listed on your nonprofit’s 990 tax forms. To update your profile, you must create an account with Candid, but that account will also cost your organization nothing.

3. What if I am a new nonprofit?

GuideStar may not have created an account for your nonprofit if you recently registered with the IRS. If this is the case, you can open an account and manually upload the required documents. Your nonprofit will need to add the following documents to create your GuideStar profile:

  1. A copy of the IRS document with your EIN and organization’s name (Example: an EIN verification letter from the IRS)
  2. A copy of the letter verifying your 501(c) status with the IRS

This can be your letter of determination from the IRS or a letter from your parent organization verifying that you have been included. The following information needs to be included in the letter:

  • Name, address, and EIN
  • Signed by an authorized representative
  • Dated no older than six months
  • Provided in non-editable PDF format
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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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