Search blog

Are we building the Candid tools you need? 

A woman working on a laptop.

As you may have heard, we’re building new Candid tools to help those working in the social sector to do good even more efficiently and effectively in a fast-changing world. To understand how Candid products can best serve our users, we need to know what problems those users are trying to solve. 

With the combined resources of Foundation Center and GuideStar, we at Candid have a unique opportunity to build the most effective solution for providing information for and about nonprofits and funders. We believe that the only way to succeed is to be in continuous dialog with our users as we create our next-generation Candid platform.  

What problems are we trying to solve?

Before we write product requirements, design interfaces, or build software, we go to our users to understand how they do their work, what their goals are, and what obstacles are standing in their way. We begin by researching how fundraisers, funders, and others keen to assist nonprofits approach their work, how they interact with technology, and what they like and don’t like.  

We start by meeting with scores of users of our current products–GuideStar and Foundation Directory–to understand how they work, observe them using our software, and ask what challenges they face in their work.  

As Candid product managers imagine possible solutions, they meet one-on-one with nonprofit professionals. They learn from fundraisers about the complex process of finding a foundation to fund their project, and from program officers and grant managers about vetting a grant applicant. It is critical to have a clear understanding of all phases of their work to create an effective solution. 

In addition, our user experience team conducts extensive research—surveys, interviews, usability tests, and data analysis on specific areas where we know there is a need. For example, we heard that funders want more information about fiscally sponsored organizations and their sponsors. So, we conducted interviews to understand the most important use cases for fiscal sponsorship data and about the process of fiscal sponsorship. This will inform how we effectively incorporate fiscal sponsorship data into our tools. 

Does the solution work? 

With the information we’ve gathered from users, we can begin to design and build new Candid tools. As we iterate through this process, we bring our solutions to users for feedback. For straightforward problems, we produce one design and ask users to confirm that it should work. For more complex problems, we create two or more designs and ask users to select the solution that works best or suggest a better alternative. Sometimes, we find that our solution does not work, or doesn’t work as well as we’d hoped, and we have to go back to the users with design revisions.  

For example, in designing a content-heavy page, we used an interactive element to hide or show some content until the user needed it, so as not to overwhelm them. However, users did not notice the interactive element in the prototype at all. We scrapped the design and started over. 

In a proactive case of employing user feedback, our designers learned that users regularly copy and paste EINs from our profiles to add to documents, so we added a one-click copy function. A small feature, sure, but it saves time—time constraints being the challenge we hear most about from nonprofit professionals. 

And as our design and engineering teams build, we test. We’re releasing the Candid platform in small increments on a publicly accessible beta website, where anyone can share feedback. This allows us to make revisions quickly and avoid heading too far down a wrong path. 

And with each significant release, we conduct more formal testing. Depending on the feature being released, we use a variety of methods to learn whether the solution is successful. We post surveys with questions about the user’s role in the sector and whether the functionality works for them, or ask a user to solve a problem and observe whether the new solution works. There’s nothing more humbling than watching someone use a website or software you’ve created: It’s immediately clear what works and what doesn’t.  

How are Candid tools actually being used?

Once we release a new feature on the beta site, we analyze user activity data to learn whether it’s being used as expected. The more people use it, the more data we’ll have to evaluate which features are being used the most and which are under-utilized. From there, we can investigate why and make adjustments.  

We’ve already learned that, even though we’ve reorganized Form 990 information in a user-friendly way on organization profiles, many people still download 990s. So, we’re exploring whether we need to improve our presentation, or whether users will always back up their research with a copy of the 990.  

Help us help you solve the problems you encounter in research, fundraising, grantwriting, compliance, and more. Check out and share your feedback. And if you’re interested in getting more involved, you can become an official beta tester to get early access to features as we roll them out. 

Photo credit: mangpor_2004 via Getty Images


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.