Better Data, Better Decisions, Better World
Last month, over 1,300 grants professionals gathered virtually for PEAK2021. For eight days, this group of philanthropy professionals dedicated to advancing equitable, effective grantmaking practices came together to connect, learn, and share in critical discussions about the practice of grantmaking. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, underscored a major theme during the opening keynote that carried through the rest of the conference: together. She reminded us that as a field, we must create the future of philanthropy together. Inherent in that call to action is an implicit recognition that working together as a field of millions of disparate actors requires the better data to realize our potential to make the world a better place.
At a conference packed with grants managers, talk of data and data systems were abundant and layered. Data governs almost every aspect of our individual lives and plays a significant role in our field. We need data to tell our story, identify funding opportunities and gaps, uplift partners, define the problems we seek to solve, and contribute to our collective impact.
For years now, philanthropy has been working to become more accountable and less siloed. So has Candid. It’s one of the main reasons we became Candid—by bringing together data on nonprofits and foundations, we can help our sector accomplish so much more together.
The social sector’s information landscape is changing. And it’s clear that now is the time for philanthropy to step up and collectively be more data-driven. For years, we’ve seen too much lip service paid to organizing our philanthropic response in a more systematic and equitable way, and there hasn’t been enough adoption of cohesive, data-driven practice. This is not an individual problem—the nature of philanthropy is structured so that foundations are able to work in silos with little accountability or competitive pressure to take joint action. Despite this, it is on all of us to change this narrative.
We know that change is hard and slow, and Candid is a great example. It’s been two years since we’ve become Candid, and we are still navigating the transition. Bringing together our cultures and our data systems has by no means been a seamless process, and we continue to experience both successes and failures in the process of change. But we know they are necessary.
In celebration of PEAK Grantmaking’s 25th anniversary, Satonya Fair, President and CEO of PEAK, reminded us that, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” So, to help us go far together, Candid is prepared to help.
To become the data-driven, relevant, responsive, and equitable sector we aspire to be, we must have an information infrastructure on which we can all rely. Candid is working to build this infrastructure and data capacity for the sector. While we are most commonly known for tools and resources like GuideStar profiles and Foundation Maps, we are currently bringing together our data repositories so we can seamlessly capture a full view of the field.
But for this to work best, it requires broad adoption and participation. We need both funders and nonprofits to contribute their information to Candid’s central data system. We also need to improve how we generate data in ways that reduce the burden on nonprofits while building efficiency for the sector as a whole.
This starts with organizations having a current GuideStar profile with in-depth, up-to-date information, recognized with a Seal of Transparency. These profiles allow nonprofits and foundations to tell their full story by adding specific information about their programs, such as measures of progress, operations, demographic information, and financials. Consider updating your GuideStar profile and asking your potential and current grantees to earn a Gold Seal of Transparency. By doing so, you’ll be advocating for increased and enriched sector-wide information about nonprofits—who they are, what they do, who they serve, and why it matters. This also alleviates the burden on grantees to tell their story over and over again, since it’s displayed on their profile for all to access.
Through Candid’s data partner networks, GuideStar profile information is shared with all major U.S.-based donor-advised funds and more than 200 charitable sites, including AmazonSmile and Facebook. Research shows that organizations with a GuideStar Seal of Transparency have 53% more fundraising success. And from an equity lens, Candid is increasingly being tapped to identify BIPOC-led and/or BIPOC-serving organizations for funders that are making efforts to center equity in their grantmaking. Let’s help lift up these organizations—together—using one standard.
We also need funders to share their grants data directly with us through e-reporting. We can’t rely on tax returns from nonprofits and foundations to meet the sector’s information needs. (That’s even more relevant this year! See our blog post on the IRS 990-filing backlog). Only with current contributed data, including detailed grant descriptions, can we tell the full story of where funding is and is not going. Please consider making a regular practice of sharing details about your grantmaking. Check out a recent webinar, Why & How to Share Your Grants Data with Candid, to learn more.
Information from funders is essential to paint a complete picture of the field so that we can monitor trends. This became even more clear to us in 2020 when working on our COVID-19 and racial equity funding maps. Many funders use our resources as a starting place to understand the field’s activity. While we actively collect real-time data, we rely on your contributed information to accurately represent how the field responds to urgent needs. In addition to providing open access to grants and nonprofit data on our special topic websites, we also collect and share related reports on IssueLab. As your foundation commissions and publishes knowledge, remember to also share it with Candid via IssueLab so it’s easily discovered by others.
We know it’s a big lift to be data-driven and navigate new tools and processes. To help, we’ve created a new self-paced, free course to learn how to use Candid’s mapping, data, and knowledge tools to better identify funding peers, potential grantee partners, and funding gaps.
There is still so much we all need to learn. If you have feedback or questions for us—whether it’s about the data infrastructure or demographic information—we are always open to conversations in the pursuit of making data work for all. Reach out to us or comment here if there’s something you want us to consider.
A big congratulations to PEAK for a very successful conference.
Davis and Sarina