GuideStar Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for GuideStar case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. GuideStar case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by William Meehan, Davina Drabkin. The GuideStar (referred as “Guidestar Harold” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Growth strategy, Marketing, Social responsibility.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of GuideStar Case Study

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.

Case Authors : William Meehan, Davina Drabkin

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Growth strategy, Marketing, Social responsibility

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for GuideStar Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024160) -10024160 - -
Year 1 3458642 -6565518 3458642 0.9434 3262870
Year 2 3962550 -2602968 7421192 0.89 3526655
Year 3 3944398 1341430 11365590 0.8396 3311793
Year 4 3241173 4582603 14606763 0.7921 2567313
TOTAL 14606763 12668630

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2644470

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Internal Rate of Return
2. Payback Period
3. Profitability Index
4. Net Present Value

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Guidestar Harold have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Guidestar Harold shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of GuideStar

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Leadership & Managing People Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Guidestar Harold often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Guidestar Harold needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024160) -10024160 - -
Year 1 3458642 -6565518 3458642 0.8696 3007515
Year 2 3962550 -2602968 7421192 0.7561 2996257
Year 3 3944398 1341430 11365590 0.6575 2593506
Year 4 3241173 4582603 14606763 0.5718 1853151
TOTAL 10450429

The Net NPV after 4 years is 426269

(10450429 - 10024160 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024160) -10024160 - -
Year 1 3458642 -6565518 3458642 0.8333 2882202
Year 2 3962550 -2602968 7421192 0.6944 2751771
Year 3 3944398 1341430 11365590 0.5787 2282638
Year 4 3241173 4582603 14606763 0.4823 1563066
TOTAL 9479676

The Net NPV after 4 years is -544484

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9479676 - 10024160 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Guidestar Harold to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Guidestar Harold has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Guidestar Harold can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Guidestar Harold, then the stock price of the Guidestar Harold should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Guidestar Harold should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

William Meehan, Davina Drabkin (2018), "GuideStar Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.