Jacob Harold, GuideStar USA

Twitter: @jacobcharold

Jacob Harold is a social change strategist, grantmaker, and author. Jacob came to GuideStar from the Hewlett Foundation, where he led grantmaking for the Philanthropy Program. Between 2006 and 2012, he oversaw $30 million in grants that, together, aimed to build a 21st-century infrastructure for smart giving.

Jacob was named to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 NonProfit Times (NPT) Power and Influence Top 50 lists, and currently serves as a term member for the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written extensively on climate change and philanthropic strategy. His essays have been used as course materials at Stanford, Duke, Wharton, Harvard, and Oxford. He earned an AB summa cum laude from Duke University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business with a certificate in public management. 

Today, Jacob speaks to the Philanthropy Hour on the Guidestar model of organizing data and providing donors with a comprehensive look at nonprofit agencies to help them with funding decisions. He discusses the most important metrics and factors for identifying strong and well-managed organizations. He addresses the overhead myth, as well as the need for more investment in the infrastructure of social organizations. And he talks about a comprehensive look at the current state of the social sector, and what it will take to improve it. He sees a lot of blending of traditional business and management practices along with the passion of addressing social issues through nonprofits, and believes those lines will continue to blur into more organizations that are committed to social good. 


In this interview, we discuss:

  1. The most important metrics for rating nonprofit agencies.  (2:15)
  2. Debunking The Overhead Myth, and what donors should focus on instead. (12:30)
  3. The importance of investing in infrastructure, and how to do it. (19:20)
  4. How Guidestar must synthesize over 2.8 billion data points to present a comprehensive and transparent look at nonprofit agencies. (26:15)
  5. The keys to long lasting change in the social sector. (30:00)


"One of the keys is to figure how to bring together different ways of thinking: the pure passion of the roots of the nonprofit, coupled with the lessons learned in the business world on management of organizations."  -Jacob Harold


  1. A plumber in philanthropy article.
  2. The Overhead Myth open letter to donors of America.
  3. Investing in Infrastructure open letter.
  4. The Guidestar Platinum program.
  5. Book Recommendation: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. 


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