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Demographic data dos and don’ts for funders 

Three different gears turning together.

Funders are increasingly using demographic data about the staff and leadership of the nonprofits they support to assess their impact and reach. At the same time, many of these same funders seek best practices in how to glean meaningful insights from this data. While this data is valuable, it represents a significant burden for nonprofits and, as a result, funders also want to make these processes as efficient as possible for all concerned. This has led to growing momentum for Demographics via Candid—a sector-wide initiative that empowers nonprofits to collect and share staff and board member demographics—one time—in a standardized, reusable, and freely accessible format on their Candid profiles.  

Featuring lessons learned and real-world examples from funders like The California Endowment, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Siegel Family Endowment, Candid has launched a short on-demand course, “A funder’s guide to using demographic data,” outlining helpful “dos and don’ts.” Learn tips on best approaches to deploy and pitfalls to avoid in using this data for impact. 

Data collection dos and don’ts 

Don’t collect data without a plan for what you will do with it. Identify questions you’re interested in using the data to answer. Priority setting that aligns with available data will help you make the most of the data and ensure it aligns with your foundation’s approach to impact measurement. The course provides an opportunity to learn from case studies, including the kinds of questions The California Endowment, a Demographics via Candid partner, is using the data to answer.  

Do streamline. Streamline your foundation’s due diligence and reporting processes by using existing datasets. You can lift the burden on yourself and your own grantees to collect and organize this data by accepting publicly available demographic data from Candid, rather than requiring nonprofits to complete yet another survey.  

Do be intentional about the timing of your ask. Since a number of leading grants management systems partner with Demographics via Candid, it’s easy to include demographic data in the workflow of either your grant application or reporting forms. Though either approach is possible, it’s important to be intentional about when you intake the data. For example, some funders prefer to request it from grantees as part of the reporting process after they’ve been awarded funds, or after the decision has been made to invite a proposal, to allay funding concerns and reinforce that there is no right answer.  

Do assess and encourage Demographics via Candid participation among your stakeholders. Use our free dashboard to assess how many of your grantees already submit demographic data to Candid. You may find, for example, that most grantees provide leader-level data but that you need to encourage them to submit board- or staff-level data. The course provides examples and tips for using the dashboard to assess grantee participation and demographics. 

Data analysis dos and don’ts

Don’t expect a one-size-fits-all answer. Approach the data as an opportunity to understand grantee and overall portfolio trends. The course includes a case study from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation about its use of Candid’s demographic data to inform and strengthen conversations with grantees related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Do use Candid’s demographic data for research and analysis. More than 70,000 nonprofit organizations have now shared demographic data about their staff and/or boards with Candid, and this number is poised to grow. Free to access, this data set represents a gold mine for researchers interested in better understanding the demographics of the nonprofit sector. However, this data is only useful if people know how to interpret it, work with it, and combine it with other data sets. The course provides best practices for making the most effective use of Candid’s demographic data set using a new, in-depth research manual, Analyzing Candid’s demographic data

In addition, Candid’s recently released benchmarking report, The state of diversity in the U.S. nonprofit sector, provides key findings at the macro level and offers a baseline with which to track efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Data sharing dos and don’ts 

Do organize the data into usable formats that can surface insights. You can use the dashboard to generate data visualizations that are helpful for communicating progress with stakeholders. The dashboard allows users to access presentation-ready slides with charts displaying demographic data patterns, and many grants management systems make it possible to integrate similarly helpful visuals into funder workflows. A case study from the Siegel Family Endowment explains how such integrations have helped streamline their processes.  

Don’t keep it to yourself. Build trust by being transparent about your motivations. If you ask grantees for data, it’s important to specify why you’re asking for it and how you will use it. Communicate high-level findings about what you’ve learned and how it’s shaping your grantmaking approach. The course offers examples of how funders are communicating with their stakeholders about their interest in the data. 

And finally, do join Demographics via Candid and do learn more about demographic data dos and don’ts from this course. The more we work collectively, the greater the potential for learning.  


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