Better Decisions ~ Better Lives

aka DEF   |   Palo Alto, CA   |
GuideStar Charity Check


EIN: 77-0575573


The mission of the Decision Education Foundation is to improve the lives of young people by empowering them with effective Decision Skills. DEF trains school administrators, teachers, counselors, and mentors, providing them with the tools for creating and delivering classroom-ready decision skills curricula to their students. DEF also works with partner organizations to promote decision skills training within specific environments and to assist these partners in tailoring decision education lessons to their unique populations.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Chris Spetzler

Member of the Board and DEF Founder

Dr. Carl Spetzler

Main address

PO Box 449

Palo Alto, CA 94302 USA

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Subject area info

Educational management

Secondary education

Special needs education

Youth organizing

Population served info


At-risk youth

NTEE code info

Secondary/High School (B25)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Specialized Education Institutions/Schools for Visually or Hearing Impaired, Learning Disabled (B28)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Tax forms


Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?


StrongStart is an active, week-long camp-like experience for incoming 9th graders that bridges a student's experience from middle school to high school. The program focuses on building community connections, self-awareness, and leadership through Decision Skills training. Lessons and activities can also be infused into the first semester/quarter or throughout the year.

Population(s) Served

Even upon graduating high school, many students may still be lacking in real-world life skills. Study habits and academics are important, but so is knowing how to be resilient and navigate in the adult world. Steps to Success is a semester long course for every 9th grader centered around Decision Skills. The course offers educator training and curriculum that include practical steps towards improving 9th grade on-track outcomes like credits earned, GPA, attendance, discipline issues, and graduation rates.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Young adults
At-risk youth
Young adults

Where we work

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Student privacy protections are a barrier to our feedback collection from students.


Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31
Financial documents
2021 The Decision Education Foundation 2021 Audited Financial Statements 2020
done  Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant. info

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 22.27 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 7.1 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2021 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 9% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of DECISION EDUCATION FOUNDATION’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

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Business model indicators

Profitability info 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation $78,366 -$13,935 -$151,543 $130,246 $1,064,924
As % of expenses 20.0% -3.7% -41.0% 48.1% 299.2%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation $77,221 -$15,080 -$152,362 $129,837 $1,064,924
As % of expenses 19.6% -4.0% -41.1% 47.9% 299.2%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $481,355 $362,004 $218,389 $401,047 $1,423,303
Total revenue, % change over prior year 48.0% -24.8% 0.0% 83.6% 254.9%
Program services revenue 7.6% 4.7% 23.8% 4.4% 2.5%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0%
Government grants 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 5.2% 0.0%
All other grants and contributions 92.4% 95.3% 75.2% 90.1% 97.6%
Other revenue 0.0% 0.0% 0.4% 0.3% -0.1%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $392,715 $375,939 $369,932 $270,801 $355,971
Total expenses, % change over prior year -4.0% -4.3% 0.0% -26.8% 31.5%
Personnel 69.5% 64.7% 40.8% 53.6% 52.0%
Professional fees 1.3% 2.7% 37.8% 35.3% 26.7%
Occupancy 1.5% 1.5% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pass-through 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 1.3% 1.9%
All other expenses 27.7% 31.1% 21.0% 9.8% 19.3%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021
Total expenses (after depreciation) $393,860 $377,084 $370,751 $271,210 $355,971
One month of savings $32,726 $31,328 $30,828 $22,567 $29,664
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $426,586 $408,412 $401,579 $293,777 $385,635

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021
Months of cash 9.4 9.8 1.7 8.2 7.3
Months of cash and investments 9.4 9.8 1.7 8.2 42.6
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 9.0 8.9 1.7 8.1 42.0
Balance sheet composition info 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021
Cash $306,301 $306,652 $52,856 $186,160 $217,135
Investments $0 $0 $0 $0 $1,046,669
Receivables $13,369 $0 $18,000 $12,000 $0
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $6,396 $6,396 $5,285 $5,285 $5,285
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 47.5% 64.9% 92.3% 100.0% 100.0%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 8.2% 8.8% 27.6% 8.5% 1.4%
Unrestricted net assets $297,569 $282,489 $51,915 $181,752 $1,246,676
Temporarily restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total net assets $297,569 $282,489 $51,915 $181,752 $1,246,676

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021
Material data errors No No No No No


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Letter of Determination is not available for this organization
Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Chris Spetzler

As Executive Director of the Decision Education Foundation, I lead an organization focused on empowering youth with effective decision skills. I came to DEF as a Program Director in 2006 and became Executive Director in 2012. Prior to joining DEF, my background has been in Consulting, Project Management (PMP), Pharmaceutical Development, and Decision Analysis/Decision Making Under Uncertainty Specialties: Decision Education, Consulting, Training, Project Management, Pharmaceutical Development. Education: Master of Arts in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies with a focus on Education; MBA International Business; B.A. in Economics and Political Science

Member of the Board and DEF Founder

Carl Spetzler

Dr. Spetzler is one of the founders of DEF and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. He is dedicated to making the benefits of better decision education accessible to everyone. He is one of the founders and chairman of Strategic Decisions Group, a strategy consulting firm that serves Global 1000 companies. He specializes in strategy development, business innovation, and strategic change management and advises top management and boards in improving corporate governance. He is a member of INFORMS and frequently speaks on strategy, innovation, and quality in decision-making. He is the 2004 recipient of the Ramsey medal, the highest award given by the Decision Analysis Society of INFORMS. He is a trustee of Illinois Institute of Technology where he received a BSChE, MBA, and PhD in Economics.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990


Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization


Highest paid employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of highest paid employee data for this organization


Board of directors
as of 05/02/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Dr Andy Dey

Director of Secondary Education, Eugene School District 4j

Term: 2018 -

Tom Keelin

Keelin Reeds Partners

David Heckerman


Carl Spetzler

Strategic Decisions Group

Ronald A. Howard

Stanford University - Professor Emeritus

Jeff Defranco

Lake Tahoe Community College

Michael Carter

Lakeview School District Superintendent

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes