Home Equipping Leaders Stewardship Five Reasons to List Your Church on GuideStar

Five Reasons to List Your Church on GuideStar

By Ken Sloane

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Every year, Giving USA issues a comprehensive report on charitable giving in the United States. They produce extensive data and projections, but of particular interest to me is where the money went, who gave it, and how it compares to previous years. This year’s report (on 2020 giving) is pretty good news.

  • In 2020, Americans gave $471.44 billion to charity, a 5.1 percent increase over 2019.
  • The largest percentage of that—69 percent—came from individuals.
  • The next largest group is giving from foundations—19 percent—which increase 17 percent over 2019
  • While “religion” continues to receive the largest percentage of this giving—29 percent—that percentage has been slowly degreasing for decades.

That religious groups are getting a decreasing share of charitable giving is just one aspect of this news. The other is that generosity is increasing, and there are possibilities for increasing income for your church beyond the people sitting in your pews.

There have never been as many options for giving to charities and nonprofits that are making a positive impact; this is the world in which churches now find themselves. Congregations need to be able to tell the story of how they are making an impact, and they need to learn to reach beyond those in the pew.

This is where GuideStar can help!

GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on U.S. nonprofit organizations. Founded in Williamsburg, Virginia, in September 1994, it received tax-exempt status in 1996—the same year the company began posting nonprofit organizations' financial reports to the World Wide Web. (In 2019, GuideStar joined with the Foundation Center to be part of the new organization, Candid, and is officially known as GuideStar by Candid.)

GuideStar exists to connect nonprofits and charities with donors. It also verifies that a recipient organization is established and that donated funds go where the donor intended. GuideStar can serve as a clearinghouse for donors, especially in the wake of emergencies and natural disasters.

Listing your church on GuideStar is free and easy. With one click of a button, your church can be verified on GuideStar. This makes your church searchable by nine million users a year and tens of millions more on more than 230 philanthropic websites including AmazonSmile, Facebook, and Network for Good.

So why should your church be listed on GuideStar?

1. Our General Council on Finance & Administration (GCFA) Has Made it Very Easy

Our General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) in 2018 decided that local churches and United Methodist organizations covered under the United Methodist group ruling could be listed on GuideStar® through the UMgroupruling.org website. “This move responds to requests from local churches to be listed as a charitable organization on a platform recognized by donors as reliable. We are happy to provide this solution to what has been a continuing issue for UMC organizations,” according to a member of the GCFA legal team.

Download step-by-step instructions for getting your church listed on GuideStar here.

Once listed on GuideStar®, United Methodist churches and organizations will have a way to demonstrate their 501(c)(3) status electronically, which will also be available to GuideStar® partners. Some GuideStar® partners include Amazon Smile, Network for Good, Facebook, and Google for Nonprofits.

“Our United Methodist partners are taking a critical step to help increase the visibility of their individual churches,” said Adrian Bordone, VP of Strategic Partnerships for GuideStar. “We are thrilled to work with them to streamline the process which allows churches to get listed on GuideStar® more easily. This will help increase access to donors who use our database as well as our more than 200 partners.”

2. Smile! Amazon is Waiting to Donate Money to Your Church

AmazonSmile is a simple way for people to support your church every time they shop, at no cost to them. Instead of going to the Amazon.com website, they bookmark smile.amazon.com on their web browser, click to visit the landing page, and select your church as the recipient of their Amazon Smile donations.

With the advent of the pandemic, many families and individuals found themselves using Amazon to supply their household needs and avoid the exposure required by shopping in person. By going to AmazonSmile instead, people may purchase the same products at the same prices, but your church receives 0.5 percent of their eligible purchases. Doesn’t sound like much? Think about it:

FACT: Amazon Prime members spends about $2,000 a year on the site

  • 25 families spending $2,000 a year on AmazonSmile = $250 gift to your church*
  • 50 families spending $6,000 a year on AmazonSmile = $1500 gift to your church*

*Not every item for purchase on Amazon is eligible for a donation, but very many are.

AmazonSmile can also be activated in the Amazon Shopping mobile app for iOS and Android phones. Remember, when they shop with AmazonSmile, they will find the exact same prices, selection, and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added benefit that AmazonSmile will donate 0.5 percent of their eligible purchases to their church. Click here to learn more.

Your church, once registered through GuideStar, can be found through the charity search feature in Amazon Smile.

3. With a Growing Presence on Facebook, Open the Door to Donations

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches have realized the value of being able to stream worship live (or recorded) via Facebook. In a research study conducted by United Methodist Communications, more than sixty percent of churches reported they were streaming worship, with Facebook being the most popular platform.

In fact, for many congregations, Facebook has grown in value as a place to not only gather with members, but also for members to be able to share with friends and neighbors what is happening in with the church family.

If your church has taken advantage of having a presence on Facebook, why not use the provided tools for offering visitors an opportunity to give? To explore Facebook’s fundraising tools, click here. Being listed on GuideStar can help expedite the approval process!

Open your church to support from foundations and your community members.

Explore the tools for funding your mission on sites like Network for Good.

4. Community Foundations are Looking for 'Boots on the Ground'

With the growing number of nonprofits in our country, there are also a growing number of charitably focused foundations. These organizations manage funds and solicit continuing gifts to empower charitable work through grants and partnerships. Few of these community foundations have staff to do the work of making an impact on their community to bring about change or transformation. They count on partnering with well-established organizations in the community to provide the “person-power” and the relationships to help make things happen.

For United Methodists, this is somewhat like the model of our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). When a disaster occurs, they identify the disaster area and ask the United Methodists in that area to plan a response, and then UMCOR coordinates the financial resources (as well as their vast resource of experience) to empower local “boots on the ground” to do the work of recovery.

When your church is listed in GuideStar—with information on how you are in mission to make your community a more connected, caring, and compassionate place—you make yourself available to many who have money to invest to make an impact for good!

5. Connect with Websites like 'Network for Good'

Network for Good is just one of many websites that has helped thousands of caring communities fund the mission they feel is their calling. Whether it’s learning new ways to raise funds to support your mission or how to engage, thank, and communicate more effectively with your donors. They see their mission as “helping small non-profits grow their good.” Check out Network for Good by clicking here. Once again, getting your church listed on GuideStar is the first step.

If these sound like some possibilities for church’s future, go back to reason #1 and use the free service from GCFA to get your group ruling letter. Be sure to click the box to be listed on GuideStar.

Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

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