May 19, 2021

A Useful Tool for Both Donors and Nonprofits

By Andy Davey

Greater Madison Nonprofit Directory

The Greater Madison Nonprofit Directory serves as a single platform for information about the thousands of nonprofits in our area, including more than 3,000 501(c)3 organizations in Madison alone. It also is the most visited page on our website, and is free for anyone to use. Madison Community Foundations (MCF) hosts the Directory as one way to help encourage transparency in the nonprofit field.

How Does It Work?

The Directory is powered by GuideStar’s database technology. (GuideStar merged a few years ago with the Foundation Center to form a new organization called Candid.) Every nonprofit that is registered with the Internal Revenue Service in the greater Madison area (the counties of Dane, Columbia, Green, Iowa and Sauk) automatically appears in the Directory. Nonprofits can voluntarily provide additional information about their mission and values, program details, outcomes and impact, and staff and board.

While the basic information in GuideStar’s national database is available to anyone, our Directory allows users to view and analyze additional financial and organizational information for local nonprofits. For example, our directory provides graphs and charts related to revenue and expenses, number of employees over time, and leadership compensation.

Knowledge for Donors

The Directory allows donors to search by name of organization, mission focus area, population served, and size of organization by financial assets or revenue. For instance, a donor could search for all “arts and culture” nonprofits and sort by revenue to learn how they might support both large and small arts organizations. Or they could search for agencies that specifically serve youth, the elderly or the LGBTQ+ community, and narrow the search to just Sauk County. Donors can then explore the profiles of individual nonprofits and even examine 990 tax forms. Searches can also be done according to GuideStar’s “Seals of Transparency,” explained further below.

For Nonprofits, an Opportunity to Inform

Any member of a local nonprofit organization can augment their organization’s profile with additional information they’d like to share with donors and other users of the Directory. To update your profile head directly to GuideStar. It’s worth the effort to include as much information as you think would be helpful to prospective donors: Use of the Directory has grown from over 3,000 visitors in 2018 when we first launched it, to nearly 6,500 in 2020.

Side note: Candid also hosts the Foundation Directory, which nonprofits can use to search for grant opportunities from more than 150,000 foundations. Madison area nonprofits can access the directory through the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Grants Information Collection.

Seals of Transparency and What they Mean

GuideStar highlights agencies that provide additional information with their Seals of Transparency that progress from Bronze to Silver, Gold and Platinum. Organizations achieve bronze by providing brief essential information such as a mission statement, name of their leader and address to send donations. To reach platinum, the organization must share a variety of additional data, including a description of the organization’s strategic plan and data on impact.

It’s important for both donors and nonprofits to know that the seals of transparency are not ratings or endorsements. As GuideStar explains on their website, they are “not a watchdog and we do not evaluate nonprofits. Our goal is to provide unbiased information to help donors and key stakeholders make educated decisions about nonprofits and the work they do.”

Just the Beginning

If you are a donor or a nonprofit with questions about the Directory or anything related to philanthropic giving or the nonprofit sector in our community, please reach out to us at MCF! We’ll do our best to answer your questions or connect you to those who can.

The Directory is, of course, just one way to share information. We’re working hard every day to personally connect donors to causes and organizations they care about, and to highlight the important work of nonprofits in our community through published stories, data analysis and relationship building. Finally, we’re here to learn as well, so don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss what’s going in your corner of the philanthropic and nonprofit world.

The Greater Madison Nonprofit Directory is sponsored by the CUNA Mutual Group Foundation, a permanent fund at MCF.


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