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An open grant report to MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett

By Ann Mei Chang (she, they)
June 15, 2022

Hand holding a letter with images of wavy lines, graphs, and charts in the background.

To MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, 

It’s been one year since Candid received the email every nonprofit dreams of: confirmation of your $15 million grant. As requested, we are submitting this brief annual letter on our use of these funds. We have also elected to share it publicly in the spirit of transparency and mutual learning, as well as to illustrate the transformative potential of general operating support. 

While Candid has been privileged to benefit from more resources than many nonprofits, we share the pervasive challenge felt across the social sector of tight budgets, restrictive grants that can take us off mission, and a struggle to make the long-term investments needed for meaningful change. Not only is the size of your gift significant, its unrestricted nature allows us to place bold bets to improve the social sector’s collective future. Contrary to the overhead myth, non-programmatic investments in our technology infrastructure, innovation, and human capital are exactly what we need to maximize our impact. We applaud the example you have set in demonstrating the power of what has been called trust-based philanthropy. 

To date, we have decided to deploy just over two-thirds of your gift to: 

  1. Build an integrated product suite that streamlines data access and unleashes future expansion 
  2. Establish an innovation fund to seed next generation ideas 
  3. Take care of Candid staff 

Please note that 1 and 2 were only green-lighted last month, due to our planned leadership transition in October 2021. As a new CEO, I have had the rare luxury of inheriting not only a financially sound organization, but one with the ability to make major investments in our future to deliver on our mission. 

Integrated product suite

To deliver on Candid’s 2030 vision, we must address what we know to be true: people have difficulty finding the information they seek amidst our plethora of tools, products, and services. Our plan is to simplify and unify Candid’s offerings so that our 525,000 monthly users can, in one place, search and vet nonprofits globally, identify potential sources of funding, and gain insight on broader trends—making the social sector more equitable, efficient, and effective. 

We will be spending $9M of your grant over three years to build a state-of-the-art technology platform that brings together key features of our flagship products such as Foundation Directory, GuideStar/Charity Check, Seals of Transparency, 990 Finder, Philanthropy News Digest, Candid Learning, Foundation Maps, and more. These flexible funds have enabled us to not only invest in the development of a robust new platform, but to also support our existing products in parallel so we can continue to provide vital resources to the millions of changemakers who rely on us. Once deployed, the new suite will simply become Candid.org, with free access to the vast majority of our data, information, and insights.  

While not externally visible, equally important will be our transition to a consistent, modern technology stack that will speed up our future product development. This will free Candid from the crush of “tech debt” we’ve accumulated over many years, across numerous disparate systems, and give us the opportunity to leap ahead as new opportunities emerge. 

The Candid Innovation Fund

We are also investing $500,000 to establish the Candid Innovation Fund, which will be deployed to test and validate major new ideas from staff for products, features, services, and markets over the next three years. Our intent is to test a wide range of bold new solutions and identify those with the greatest potential before placing a big bet. For those that demonstrate the strongest potential for impact, we’ll consider larger investments from the remainder of your gift. 

Taking care of our staff

When Candid pivoted to fully remote work in March 2020, we could not have predicted the length and impact of the pandemic, or how it would affect our staff. Throughout the pandemic, we saw the wellness and safety of our team as a top priority. And, despite enormous personal and professional stress, they continued to deliver data, resources, insights, and training to our colleagues across the sector, supporting their work at a crucial time. To show our appreciation for their dedication and hard work in this time of crisis, in November 2021 Candid provided a flat $2,000 grossed-up bonus for every full-time employee (except for the President), as well as a $1,000 bonus for every part-time employee. 

Looking forward

Alongside these investments, we are also taking a hard look at other ways we can better serve the needs of the sector. At Candid, we believe that all organizations, particularly those who have been historically marginalized, should be able to fully benefit from our offerings. Thus, we are actively working to bridge gaps in affordability, awareness, capacity, and social capital. One example is our offer for free access to Foundation Directory Essential to nonprofits with a budget under $1M who earn a Gold Seal of Transparency.  

In addition, we are working to make our data more open and accessible. We recently launched a feature that enables any nonprofit that earns a Seal of Transparency to share their data freely with anyone they choose. And we are embarking on a sector-wide campaign to support equity initiatives by updating our demographic survey, collecting data in a reusable form, and making it publicly and freely available.   

Infrastructure, risk-taking, and staff well-being are all essential for progress, yet difficult for most nonprofits to prioritize given both tight budgets and funding constraints. We hope that more donors will follow your lead in making these types of deep, unrestricted gifts that enable us all to make smart choices for our collective future, rather than resorting to the equivalent of duct tape and baling wire. We could not be more grateful for your investment in our work and look forward to keeping you updated on our progress.  

Tags: Accessibility; Transparency; Candid