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Candid’s year of systems integration

Combining the operations of two established organizations takes a lot of work. For Candid, much of that effort occurred behind the scenes. In this article on systems integration from our 2020 annual report, Crystal Mandler discusses the myriad tasks her team accomplished to help Candid operate more efficiently and effectively.

2020 was a year of ambitious goals and gargantuan effort for Candid’s business systems team as we consolidated the bulk of the systems we need to operate effectively and deliver on our mission.

One Zoom report lays bare the enormity of our work last year: between January 1 and December 31, my Zoom account logged 313,261 minutes. That is 5,221 hours of coordination, working sessions, daily sync ups, and troubleshooting. The team averaged more than 100 hours a week on Zoom. If we’d worked only 35-hour work weeks, the year would have been 149 weeks long! But 2020 had 52 weeks, despite its many unprecedented events.

We had spent 2019—the year Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces to create Candid—managing separate “classic” GuideStar and Foundation Center business systems. Maintaining two separate financial systems and account structures made financial reporting laborious and unreliable. We had no transparency into our common donors or customers, our sales and fundraising pipelines, and which Candid staff members were interacting with which of our donors and when. We had a highly customized, difficult-to-maintain e-commerce and subscription management system.

On January 1, 2020, Candid launched a combined financial system—the structural background through which we maintain and track all financial transactions and thereby our income, expenses, and overall financial health. Our new account structure encompasses the full scope of our programs and mission. This implementation included numerous other enhancements so that we now have a single system for paying our bills, invoicing our customers, tracking our grants, recording our payroll and expenses, filing taxes, and more.

In August, we launched a combined CRM (customer relationship management), a new e-commerce system, and a single sign-on solution. This was a massive undertaking involving more than 60 staff and an army of consultants. Without disrupting daily business operations during a global pandemic, we migrated nearly 65 years of opportunities (including Candid’s first grant from 1956); consolidated cases from the customer success, profile update, and online librarian teams; deduped and cleaned nearly 2 million contacts and 350,000 organization records; migrated many of Candid’s subscribers and subscriptions from a highly customized, difficult-to-maintain custom solution to an integrated out-of-the-box system; and built integrations among these systems with our financial system, our email marketing system, our products and services, our payment processors, and more. Although not glamorous, these systems are critical to Candid’s health and mission.

Candid’s values shone throughout these implementations. “Driven” describes the late nights, weekend work, and enormous effort required to achieve our tasks. Innate “curiosity” enabled team members to learn and adapt to so many new systems so quickly. The business systems and intelligence team embodied “accessible” as we worked with a vast number of stakeholders and consultants. Managing the expectations of so many stakeholders required us to become increasingly “direct.” And I’m immensely proud of the acceptance and “inclusion” demonstrated by the team and by my colleagues overall.

Thanks to our efforts in 2020, we have only a few “classic” GuideStar and Foundation Center systems left to tackle in 2021. When I look back on 2020, I see a year of no small accomplishment.


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