5 Simple Ways to Improve Your GuideStar Profile

GuideStar Michael J Content

Completed GuideStar profiles are essential for improved nonprofit fundraising.

You hear it all the time in the nonprofit world. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. 

“I really need to get that GuideStar profile done.” 

Yes, you do — if you would like access to millions of potential donors on the Amazon, Salesforce, and Facebook giving platforms. And the 10 million viewers GuideStar itself gets each year.

Even though obtaining a Seal of Transparency improves your access to potential funding, time and staffing limits often sidetrack the project. And when you finally get there, then comes the hard part: you have to explain your organization to potential funders in writing. 

When I first started researching GuideStar profiles, I noticed right away that some of them were really hard to read. Great big gobs of impenetrable text had been typed or pasted in response to the standard questions. No one looks forward to reading that, let alone to giving money to the authoring agency. 

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to make your GuideStar profile read easier for your potential donors.

People often scan before they read. Some people don’t ever read; they just scan. The research-supported Information Mapping system suggests breaking your information down into small chunks and labeling them, and writing shorter sentences and paragraphs.

Here are five simple ways to write better answers in your profile.

#1. The Shortest Path Between Two Points Is … Fewer Words

Despite the best efforts of Information Mappers, the temptation to “data dump” as many facts as possible compels many profile writers to cram text fields with gigantic paragraphs. Do you like reading 500-word paragraphs? Well, neither do your potential funders.

Keep the paragraphs — and the sentences — short. Think of it like this: each sentence you make easier to read makes it easier for your donors to consider funding your project.

How? Try one idea per paragraph.

Each clean, short, simple paragraph made of clear, simple sentences scores points for you. 

Paragraphs are chains of sentences. So every sentence you clean up makes for a better paragraph — and easier reading.

Your paragraphs are also chains of reasons — reasons why donors should back you.

Example: A/B Test. Which reads easier, the single paragraph or the two short paragraphs?

A.

Since 2014, Mayberry Housing Collective has worked with San Madeo County to get people off the streets and into housing. We have found homes for over 700 citizens. In 2020, 90% of Mayberry Housing Collective clients received housing vouchers. We placed 98 residents in apartments and group homes in 5 cities. 73% of our 2019 clients remained in their new homes in 2020

B.

Since 2014, Mayberry Housing Collective has worked with San Madeo County to get people off the streets and into housing. We have found homes for over 700 citizens. 

In 2020, 90% of Mayberry Housing Collective clients received housing vouchers. We placed 98 residents in apartments and group homes in 5 cities. 73% of our 2019 clients remained in their new homes in 2020

#2. Use Subheadings

If an application gives us formatting functions, we use them. But a lot of web-form-based sites like GuideStar give you no formatting capabilities.

Just because there’s no way to make large and bolded headings in the GuideStar interface doesn’t mean you can’t make headings to label important information clearly. 

A set of paragraphs with no heading requires so much more effort from the reader. The headings help to “chunk” your information into easily digested bits.

So headings create labels for your chunks. That equals easier to comprehend reasons why donors should give you money.

Example:

A Standard of Housing Success

Since 2014, Mayberry Housing Collective has worked with San Mateo County to get people off the streets and into housing. We have found homes for over 700 citizens. 

In 2020, 90% of Mayberry Housing Collective clients received housing vouchers. We placed 98 residents in apartments and group homes in 5 cities. 73% of our 2019 clients remained in their new homes in 2020. 

#3: Use A Grammar Checker

Yes, correct spelling and good grammar can definitely build your authority. But grammar checking apps and plug-ins aren’t just about strict rules; they also help with clarity. 

Grammarly and similar programs can help you write shorter, more precise sentences by checking for things like

  • run-on sentences
  • wordy phrases
  • redundancy
  • overused words

#4: Use Numbers

You use them on your website and annual report to help people understand the scale of your organization’s impact. Yet, some nonprofits don’t include numbers in their GuideStar answers. Why not use some here to improve your case?

When outlining accomplishments, be sure to use both quantitative data like the number of recipients and qualitative data like the percentage of participants who rated your services as excellent.

Instead of just saying, “we added a mentorship program,” why not say:

“Our new mentorship program served 54 aspiring journalists.”

Example: 

Which one of these says more?

  • Since 1994, we have been battling hunger.
  • Since 1994, we have battled hunger by serving over 200 meals per day.

#5. Use Lists

Bullet lists are a simple way to provide quickly scannable information. But since there’s no text editing feature within GuideStar, few profiles use them.

But you can easily create lists in GuideStar. You just have to do it manually.

For a bullet-style list, try manually adding a dash before each item:

Individual donors

-Corporate sponsors

-Foundations

Wrap Up

These are simple methods, yet they are effective. Remember, your goal is to get funders to read your profile — so they will give you the money you need.

There is much more to know about GuideStar profiles. Did you know that Gold and Platinum profiles get 2x the views? 

Have questions or need help? Reach me at michaeljcontent.com/contact

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