News and analysis
October 16, 2014

GuideStar Unveils Online Tool to Gauge Nonprofits’ Diversity

Charities can rate their diversity efforts with a new yardstick being offered by GuideStar, an organization that compiles data on nonprofits.

Using a tool on GuideStar’s website nonprofits can compile demographic data on their board members, employees, and volunteers, including their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and any disability they might have.

Once the information has been recorded, groups can see how they measure up in relation to an evolving set of standards developed by members of the D5 coalition, a group of 26 foundations, nonprofit associations, and donor organizations.

"The face of America is changing, and foundations and nonprofits need to change with it," Kelly Brown, director of the D5 coalition, told reporters during a conference call.

A diverse work force that reflects the population it serves can help a nonprofit become more effective, according to Jacob Harold, GuideStar’s president.

Achieving diversity "is not just a moral challenge," he said in a statement. "It’s a strategic opportunity."

Nonprofit organizations can choose whether to keep their information confidential or share it with GuideStar for public distribution. GuideStar already collects financial information on nonprofits from their audits and Internal Revenue Service filings.

Currently, GuideStar has collected information from about 100,000 nonprofits that go beyond those financial data. Of those, Mr. Harold said, about 40,000 provided additional data that qualified them to receive special "bronze, silver, and gold seals of recognition that signify increasing levels of disclosure. With the help of the diversity effort, he hopes a total of 200,000 nonprofits will qualify for the recognition within a few years.

To help launch the diversity effort, GuideStar has struck a partnership with Green 2.0, a group that advocates for increased diversity at environmental groups.

According to a report commissioned by Green 2.0, minorities make up less than 5 percent, on average, of "mainstream" environmental organizations’ boards.

Reporting diversity data could help increase that number, allow donors to make informed decisions about the support they give, and provide a more uniform and comprehensive standard for nonprofits, according to Robert Raben, founder of Green 2.0.

Having data on diversity would help environmental groups end the "overwhelmingly white ‘Green Insider’s Club,’" Mr. Raben said, and allow nonprofits to rely on facts rather than anecdotal evidence when talking about their diversity efforts.

"The goal is not data," Mr. Raben told reporters during the call. "The goal is diversity."

He said he had received pledges to participate from several organizations, including environmental groups like the National Audubon Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, along with grant makers that include the California Endowment, the Kresge Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Send an e-mail to Alex Daniels.