Angie Holzer has spent decades working in the world of nonprofits including expeditions around the world to help coordinate medical relief efforts and other international outreach.

Holzer has seen a lot of the good that can come from the work of nonprofit organizations, but she’s also borne witness to the tremendous challenges that accompany a realm where limited resources, poor organization and a lack of coordinated efforts often limit or undermine the efforts to do good.

And she’s seen, firsthand, examples of the misuse and misappropriation of philanthropic funding that has plagued the world of nonprofit work. One Harvard study estimates fraud accounts for $40 billion in losses every year just to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations

Holzer made the nonprofit sector the focus of her doctoral dissertation and conducted an analysis of the structure and function of nonprofits groups, working to identify and quantify dominant strengths and weaknesses.

Armed with that data set, Holzer envisioned a globally accessible digital toolkit that would address the biggest problems facing the operators of nonprofit organizations, including enabling cash- and time-starved nonprofits to easily engage, and publicly share transparency and accountability validations; become easier to discover by both potential donors and those who might benefit from a particular nonprofit service; and find connections and collaborations within the broader nonprofit community.

And, in January 2021, that vision became a reality when Holzer launched her Utah-based tech startup, WikiCharities.org.

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“The goal is to bring more awareness to nonprofits on a global scale, help them be more transparent and provide easier opportunities to be more collaborative,” Holzer said. “If we can bring them all together on a single platform they can see who is working in similar space. First, it’s building awareness, which opens the door for outreach and collaborating with each other.”

One of the things Holzer discovered in her research is that 30% to 40% of nonprofit organizations do not have a functioning website or have a site that is incomplete and/or lacking current information. In an innovative rethinking of how to make creating a digital presence as easy and affordable as possible, particularly for smaller nonprofits, Holzer and her team have pre-loaded all 1.7 million currently registered U.S. nonprofit organizations into the WikiCharities platform in a format searchable by name, type of services and location.

Holzer said an organization can find and claim its webpage for free, post profile information with a personalized URL and share their 501(c)(3) documentation as well as contact information and social media links. For an annual subscription of about $100, for smaller organizations, that can be upgraded to a fully functional website that can process donations, feature additional information and transparency documentation including templates for financial statements, impact reports, board member requirements, volunteer waiver forms and more.

Nonprofits that participate in the WikiCharities platform can also earn an independent validation from the program by posting transparency documentation and passing an assessment. In an arena rife with instances of fraud, Holzer said outside validation can provide peace of mind to potential donors and have significant impacts on an organization’s fundraising success.

“Nonprofits who are transparent with their information receive 53% more contributions than those who aren’t, according to the Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance,” Holzer wrote in a web posting.

In addition to being a resource for individual donors, Holzer said charitable foundations are starting to use WikiCharities validation as a way to review and help vet the nonprofits they support. Holzer said this saves those groups time and promotes a standard of transparency within the community and around the world.

“We are excited to start using the WikiCharities validation,” said Cameron Outlaw from the Child’s Hope Foundation in a statement. “It will help us vet and improve trust with nonprofits especially as we work in the international space.”

Holzer said that while the whole of U.S.-based nonprofits have been loaded onto the WikiCharities platform, work to do the same with the remaining 8 million or so international nonprofit groups is a work in progress.

Holzer was able to hit the ground running with WikiCharities thanks in part to her participation in a novel graduate program at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.

The Master of Business Creation, launched in 2019, is a nine-month program designed to give entrepreneurs an academic track focused on building and scaling their business startups.

U. President Taylor Randall, who was dean of the business school when the program launched, said at the time it would be charting new territory in the realm of “active learning” and was poised to change the utility of case study knowledge from learning what someone else did at some previous time to self-analysis, and response, happening in the now.

“Really, this is perhaps a degree that takes active learning to a new level,” Randall said. “The professors and students involved in this program will be applying knowledge in real time. In fact, faculty expect what they give to students to be used the very day it’s delivered to them.

“The case studies for this degree are their own companies, not material found outside what they’re doing.”

Holzer credits the program with enabling her to zero in on, and thoroughly vet, a complete business plan and set of strategies for WikiCharities in an environment rife with expertise and insight that came from her Eccles advisors as well as fellow members of her cohort.

In June, WikiCharities is launching a pilot program focused specifically on Utah, aiming to onboard 1,000 of the state’s nearly 11,000 nonprofit organizations.

According to a 2022 report by the Utah Nonprofit Association, Utah had 10,750 nonprofits as of Oct. 2021, with almost three-quarters of those organizations located along the Wasatch Front. Some 77% of the groups, statewide, work with budgets under $100,000. And, the top service areas for those groups include: human services, 20.7%; public and societal benefit, 13.1%; and education, 10.5%.

Holzer said the overarching goal of WikiCharities is to lift the collective work of nonprofit organizations in Utah, the U.S. and around the world by helping them to be more successful individually in providing service to those in need while making the best use of collaborative opportunities across the spectrum of the global nonprofit sector.

“We want to help ... create a trusted nonprofit community, where nonprofits can show their transparency through our nonprofit validation, find other nonprofits to improve collaboration and where those who need help can find nonprofit services faster and more effectively,” Holzer said.

To learn more about the work of WikiCharities, visit wikicharities.org.