By William Meehan, Davina Drabkin
2013 | Case No. SI121 | Length 18 pgs.

When Jacob Harold became head of the Hewlett Foundation’s Philanthropy Program, he began to see GuideStar as much more than just a website. GuideStar was the result of founder Arthur “Buzz” Schmidt’s vision of bringing transparency and accountability to the world of nonprofits. At its core, the organization compiled information that U.S. nonprofits submitted on their IRS filings into an easy to use database. It supplemented that information with data from additional sources to help anyone interacting with nonprofits—individual donors, foundations, researchers, educators, professionals, government, and the media—make informed decisions. Instead of just a website, Harold began to recognize the potential that GuideStar had to offer. With so many different foundations and donors donating to a myriad of nonprofits that touched millions of people, GuideStar could to help bring order to the disparate and somewhat unruly nonprofit field. It was the structure that could aggregate available information, systemize it in ways that were useful to all, and make it widely available. Harold believed so strongly in GuideStar’s mission and potential, that he successfully pursued the CEO position when it became available in 2011. Having sat on GuideStar’s board, he had a solid understanding of the nonprofit and knew that it could do even more. Taking GuideStar to the next level was about structuring the organization to increase the reach and impact of its information. Doing so, however, would require change. From the perspective of a new CEO, this case explores Harold’s vision for moving GuideStar up the value chain and his plans for evolving the organization. Harold identifies four pillars on which to focus—earned income vs. mission, culture, infrastructure, and relationships. He acknowledges specific challenges ahead, including the unknowns and “live tensions” that he will need to navigate.

Learning Objective

To gain perspective about an incoming CEO’s assessments, thoughts, and strategies and the steps that he takes to begin leading the organization. This case is focused on a non-profit organization and its unique situation of balancing an earned income revenue model with its social mission.

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