GuideStar UK opts for a merger

Charity information service GuideStar UK is merging with Civil Society Systems, the charity that promotes and supports the establishment of GuideStar programmes worldwide.

The joint organisation, GuideStar International, will be launched at a reception this evening. The UK service, which includes a website database of the 168,000 charities in England and Wales, will continue to run as a ring-fenced project and will be overseen by a new advisory board chaired by Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the umbrella body the NCVO.

The new organisation will also set up a community interest company called GuideStar Data Services to handle the paid-for services - such as the Local Government Intelligence Service and the Legal Intelligence Service - that currently help subsidise the free-access GuideStar UK website.

David Brocklebank, chief executive of GuideStar UK, will head the new CIC. He told Third Sector that the merger was expected to make the venture financially stable.

GuideStar Data Services, which is being funded by a £3m loan from US non-profit Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is expected to break even within 18 months and eventually to cover the costs of GuideStar UK.

"GuideStar Data Services will be a social enterprise, so we wanted to start off with a loan rather than a grant," said Brocklebank.

The merger will also free up funding by combining similar functions. Brocklebank said there would be no redundancies.

There are plans to expand GuideStar UK's site to include exempt and excepted charities and other third sector organisations, such as social enterprises.

"There is no agreed definition of the third sector, but we do know what 120 per cent of it is," said Brocklebank. "So let's include all of those organisations and we can later exclude those that fall outside the definition."

GuideStar International will be led by Buzz Schmidt, founder of the GuideStar movement and president of Civil Society Systems.

Timeline

2002: The Government gives its blessing to a UK version of the US GuideStar database.

2003: The Treasury confirms a grant of £2.9m to GuideStar, which is expected to launch in 2004. Critics suggest a database could cost as little as £150,000. GuideStar UK recruits Erica Roberts, former director of Millennium Awards at the Millennium Commission, as its first chief executive.

2004: GuideStar UK's launch is delayed.

2005: GuideStar UK goes live.

2006: Roberts and chief operating officer Jocelyn James leave GuideStar UK. Questions are raised about its future. David Brocklebank is made chief executive and oversees the launch of the Local Government Intelligence Service.

2007: The Legal Intelligence Service is launched. GuideStar UK merges with Civil Society Systems.

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