Guidestar recently added a feature to their website which will highlight reviews and stories of nonprofits made on greatnonprofits.org. I've sat back for months now while the funder and nonprofit world got excited about the Great Nonprofits website, but I can't be silent anymore. You may disagree with me, but I really don't think Great Nonprofits is so great, for two reasons.
1. The nonprofits on Great Nonprofits are not representative of the sector
Only nonprofits that have comments or stories posted about them are on the Great Nonprofits site. In other words, there are a vast amount of nonprofits who haven't heard of this site or don't have the capacity to tell their donors or constituents about this site, even though these nonprofits are doing perfectly GREAT work!
2. Comments and stories about a particular nonprofit can skew the public's image of that nonprofit.
Let me explain, ever heard of the website Ratemyprofessors.com? Great Nonprofits is like Rate my professors because when a few people write comments about a nonprofit (or a professor), that is the image that the public sees about that nonprofit (or professor), even if that image is negative or incorrect.
What if someone had a bad experience at a nonprofit and wrote a mean comment, is that representative of all the people who experienced that nonprofit, most likely not. This is so much of an issue that now nonprofits are asking their staff to log on and write nice comments about their organizations so funders and the general public will think they are great!
My advice to nonprofits, funders, and the general public is to invest in researchers to do evaluations that are representative of organizations and the sector. We need more accurate comprehensive views of organizations, not just Harry or Jill's experience with their local soup kitchen.
For example, the special issue Nonprofits and Evaluation: New Directions for Evaluation "explores evaluation through the lens of funders and nonprofits within the field." This issue explains how nonprofits are using evaluation and ways that funders can support evaluation efforts.