Search blog

Reimagining grantmaking with data collaboration at scale 

Aleda Gagarin, VP of Influence, on a panel with three other social sector leaders at the 2024 PEAK Grantmaking Conference.

Imagine a world in which philanthropy professionals are focused on improving their practices to transform philanthropy through centering communities, lightening the burden on nonprofit organizations, and holding themselves accountable to their values. PEAK Grantmaking’s “Reimagining Philanthropy” conference in March exploring these themes was a fitting setting for a session Candid organized about advancing systems change via data collaboration at scale.  

In addition to Candid’s vice president of influence Aleda Gagarin, the session featured Ellen Dickenson, senior vice president for research of United Way of Massachusetts Bay; Jeffrey Jimenez-Kurlander, learning and impact officer from the Surdna Foundation; and Kerrin Mitchell, co-founder of Fluxx. Each organization represented an active participant in our growing community of nearly 150 Demographics via Candid partners who have joined us to create more efficient, equitable, and effective grantmaking processes. 

As Gagarin outlined, Demographics via Candid is a sector-wide initiative to make the process of collecting and sharing demographic data about nonprofit leaders, boards, and staff beneficial rather than burdensome, while contributing to the development of a national data standard. To reduce the burden on grantees, it enables organizations to collect and share staff and board member demographics in a standardized, reusable, and freely accessible format on their Candid profiles one time. The data is then made freely available to funders and other stakeholders through various means, including integrated directly into grants management systems or via a link to the nonprofit’s individual profile.   

Motivations for joining a collaborative data movement

Dickenson, Jimenez-Kurlander, and Mitchell shared their perspectives as a nonprofit, a grantmaker, and a technology platform about the benefits of such a data collaboration to funders and grantees alike. As a grantmaking public charity, United Way of Massachusetts Bay is both a fundraiser and a grantmaker with a place-based focus. Its goals of working toward an economically just region, increasing community voice and power in decision making, and sharing data to tell the story of the region align well with a demographics data-driven movement. The demographic data they leverage through the effort enables the United Way to better document its reach and impact and share data with its community and those who support it. “Candid helps us to be transparent and accountable to our community,” Dickenson said. 

Like many funders, the Surdna Foundation once had its own demographics survey designed to meet its singular needs and for internal use only. Soon after this effort began in 2021, the foundation started hearing from grantees that they were facing survey fatigue from similar surveys from multiple funders. “Demographics via Candid presented a ready solution to survey fatigue,” explained Jimenez-Kurlander, “while also allowing Surdna to contribute to the development of a transparent, publicly available, centralized data set that would improve data quality and serve the needs of the field as a whole.” 

Fluxx, a leading grants management system provider, has made it possible for its clients to integrate Candid’s demographic data into their workflows at no cost. Mitchell explained that it was important for Fluxx to participate in the data collaboration to actualize their own commitment to equity by reducing the burden on grantees. Demographics via Candid also provided the company with reliable data sources to support deeper analysis. Mitchell added that “Fluxx also wanted to help our clients with creating visualizations of data, which is often muddled and easily misunderstood when hidden inside of tables and spreadsheets, and Candid’s offering provides ready visualizations.” 

Building buy-in and supporting capacity 

The speakers all underscored that movement building requires addressing both organizational culture and technical capacity concerns. They also shared that articulating the case for how the effort aligns with organizational values is the best starting point for securing buy-in from both staff and grantees.  

To secure internal buy-in, Jimenez-Kurlander recommended communicating with staff in advance and connecting a collective approach to gathering demographic data to the foundation’s values. To address the needs of grantees, Surdna offered webinars so applicants could ask questions and understand the mechanics of collecting and sharing demographic data. Funders can use Candid’s email and survey templates as well as share a self-paced course for nonprofits on how they can implement and benefit from Demographic via Candid. 

To address concerns about technical capacity, Mitchell explained how its funder clients can integrate data via Candid’s free Demographics API to easily access it as needed. For example, funders can choose when in their processes to pull in the data—to support due diligence at the applicant stage or during grant reporting cycles. The panelists also agreed that nonprofits are motivated to provide the data when they know how funders are using it. 

While Demographics via Candid simplifies processes for funders, a recurring theme of the session was its many benefits for nonprofits and the importance of communicating these to grantees. Grantee benefits include shorter grant applications, streamlined reporting, making it easier for funders to discover organizations representative of the communities they serve, and making it possible for grantees to track their progress over time.  

Though we started with the theme of reimagining, it’s important to note that the opportunities and benefits of data collaboration the panelists shared are all very real and tangible and will advance equity in the sector as whole. So, let’s not stop with reimagining but take a real step forward by signing on as a partner.  


Leave a comment

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