Demystifying Candid data
Among Candid’s top evergreen priorities is to ensure we both have the best data possible for the sector and that we get it into the hands of all who can benefit. This is key to living up to our nonprofit mission to provide data as a sustainable public good that supports the entire sector’s success. In this piece, I aim to demystify how exactly Candid goes about collecting better and more timely data and numerous ways we offer data that will help nonprofits achieve their missions for free or at a discount.
The best data
There’s a lot of data about nonprofits and giving out there, so what makes Candid different? Our aim is to provide the most robust and current data possible to facilitate the social sector’s work on the vast problems we face as a society. We do this in three ways:
- Enhance 990s. Candid has been in the data game for decades, with a team of dozens of professionals who have explored all the nooks and crannies of the IRS supplied 990 data. Starting with the raw 990s, they go through 20 steps to clean, process, and categorize the data to make it far more usable and meaningful.
- Add real-time data. In addition to official data sources, our data science team pulls live data from news, websites, and social media to create both a more comprehensive and current picture of the sector. For example, these sources provide details on pledges made during a fast-moving crisis or staff changes at an organization.
- Add contributed data. Finally, the richest data we have comes directly from organizations themselves. Almost 100,000 nonprofits have claimed their Candid profile and updated it within the past two years to earn a Candid Seal of Transparency. And hundreds of foundations share details about their grantmaking through our e-reporter program.
Having the best data isn’t meaningful if the people who could benefit most aren’t able to access it. Which brings me to the big question—how can we continue to generate income that allows the significant investment necessary to offer the best data, while getting data into the hands of everyone who needs it?
Today, 95% of users access Candid’s data for free, largely as casual users of GuideStar and 990 Finder. Candid continues to seek ways to expand access for the public good, which last year included:
- Go for Gold—free access to Foundation Directory Essential when small nonprofits earn a Gold Seal of Transparency.
- Shareable profiles—more than 9,000 nonprofits are using a shareable link to freely, easily, and proactively provide their full profile to tell a richer story to potential donors.
- Candid community—this year, we doubled the number of sites across the US where community members can access and use all our tools and services for free.
- Free academic data set—to support research that strengthens the sector.
Candid will explore ways to continue making data more affordable, particularly to smaller nonprofits. Our goal is to balance two priorities: never having cost be a barrier to accessing the data you need to do good, while ensuring we can continue to invest in making our data the best available.
Next generation platform
Having the best data and making it widely accessible is crucial in the leadup to building Candid’s next generation platform, where everyone will be able to tap into all we have to offer, in one place at Candid.org. This work is ongoing, but we’re well on our way to unifying our tools, data, and resources with a modern interface that enables access, analysis, sharing data, information, and insights about the social sector. Users will see gradual changes throughout the year and the work will continue through early 2025. We’ll provide regular progress updates regularly; in the meantime, visit beta.candid.org to start testing new features and ways to get the full picture of the social sector.