Bridging the data gap between nonprofits in Guatemala and information seekers

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I started Pionero with the naive intention of devising a contextually relevant methodology to find the best nonprofits in Guatemala. Then, I would sing their praises to anyone interested. 

My motivation was borne from a passion and equally strong frustration with the nonprofit sector. I had over a decade of experience within a variety of organizations in developing countries. However, I kept coming across similar obstacles. I met many well-intentioned donors who made poor giving choices. They supported the more visible nonprofits rather than those who have a greater impact with a smaller marketing budget.

Since starting Pionero however, I realized that the problem isn’t necessarily that donors are sloppy when making giving decisions. The issue wasn’t either that better-resourced nonprofits were thrashing the little guys through slick marketing.

working at ndg
Working on behalf of Niños de Guatemala and a US nonprofit, Shuzz.
sierra leone visit
Me in Sierra Leone visiting a nonprofit called Play 31. I have seen many nonprofits throughout my career, the good, the bad and the ugly. Luckily this nonprofit was one of the good ones.

Although my initial judgment is true in some cases, I understood that doing decent due diligence in Guatemala was impossible. This is because basic, impartial, and centralised information on the nonprofits in Guatemala was not readily available.

After 2 years of Pionero in operation, we have become more than just an impartial intermediary. We are becoming the authority on the Guatemalan nonprofit environment itself.

How did this happen?

Demand for data! As we built our database of nonprofits, more organizations kept coming out of the woodwork and we were always looking for the elusive list of registered nonprofits in Guatemala but kept coming up short. 

Although we were finding some demand for our consulting services, the demand for basic data was impossible to ignore from a huge variety of audiences including larger nonprofits, government agencies and universities.

In Guatemala, as in most developing countries, there aren’t websites such as Guidestar or Charity Navigator that use publicly available information and sorts, organizes it so information seekers can do their own research and make informed decisions.

Only recently have we managed to find the complete list of NGOs, Associations and Foundations in Guatemala thanks to using the Public Information Act. This information is available to the public but only if you request it and know the right people to talk to. Even when we received the data, it was still very limited with only the name and the date when organization was registered. 

So What Now?

We are now sifting through a grand list of approximately 15,000 registered NGOs, Associations and Foundations which was the number sent to us from the Ministerio de Gobernacion.

Why the sifting? A large amount of the 15,000 are associations which represent closed groups of private interests such as mountaineering clubs, neighbourhood associations, tuc tuc associations etc. These types of nonprofits don’t meet our eligibility criteria for prospective partner nonprofits.

Our criteria for the initial filtering process:

What is the organization’s purpose?

  1. Primary function should be the elimination of social problems or the suffering caused by social problems
  2. Purpose should be to meet public needs (for common good)
  3. Limited political involvement and no advancement of private political interests
  4. Faith-based organizations should work for social good not for the sole advancement of their religion

Who benefits from the organization’s activities?

  1. Must be for public benefit, not organized or operated for the benefit of any private interest
  2. Profits must be used for charitable activities, net earnings may not benefit any private shareholder or individual
guatemala map of nonprofits
A preview of our Guatemala nonprofit map to come with our upcoming website!

Once we have done this initial filter we will map the remaining “eligible” nonprofits on the interactive map on our new website which we shall have online in the next few months. 

The map will have show all the eligible nonprofits in Guatemala as well as our partner nonprofits highlighted with relevant links to the research we have carried out on the sector and individual nonprofits.

The potential of the new website with all our information accessible online in enormous

Researchers, donors, individuals, volunteers and nonprofits themselves will have access to a rich source of information and we look forward to the collaborations that result from using our tool and data.

If you would like to support our efforts to make the nonprofits in Guatemala and philanthropy environment more transparent, please click here to contribute.