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Inside Candid’s first year: staff musings

By Suzanne Coffman
February 10, 2020

In October 2019, some 191 Candid employees gathered in Baltimore for our first organization-wide retreat. The event kicked off at the Peabody Library, where data standards manager and roving photographer David Wolchek took this photo.

In case you missed it, February 1 marked the first anniversary of Candid’s creation. Last week, members of our executive team shared their thoughts on the past year. Today, staff members in different program areas, of varying tenures, and located in different Candid offices discuss their experiences during our first year.

Yue WangYue Wang, software engineer, 4 years GuideStar/Candid, Williamsburg office

The organization as a whole is growing bigger and stronger. I love all the training opportunities. I’ve learned a lot so far! It’s awesome we had the chance to meet so many people with different backgrounds in the convene event [Candid’s staff retreat in Baltimore]. I’m so proud to be part of the big organization, and I believe the future of this organization will be very bright.

Susan ShiromaSusan Shiroma, network engagement manager, Northeast, 24 years Foundation Center/Candid, NYC office

Our first year as Candid was as exhilarating as the heady years of our original websites and databases.  Lots of new, timely, and smart stuff to learn.  No time to exhale after February 2019.  Each week brought something new.  A big thank-you to the team that kept us involved and informed.

The culmination for me was the cool staff retreat in Baltimore (Re: ice breaker name tags. Only Matt Brooks and I know what BJJ is. And everyone loves Deb Snider!) and a move to a new position focusing on the Funding Information Network.

I knew Candid’s first year was a success each time I visited a different neighborhood or city where the nonprofits I met already knew our name and story.

If I had to do re-do our first year, I would have invested more time with the 2019 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report, performed twice as many GuideStar Pro searches, and gently told three times as many library and nonprofit partners to update their websites and resources with our new name and logo.

Eva NicoEva Nico, senior director of programs, 4 years GuideStar/Candid, Oakland office

We’ve taken the bold step to integrate two well established organizations and that makes me proud. My new colleagues are no longer theoretical specters. I am learning a lot from them and with them and that keeps me energized. I’ve had to say goodbye too many times last year. I am also staring to say hello to new colleagues. It’s corny but it’s surprised me how much our integration reminds me of the time we added to our house—the planning, the permissions, the nuts and bolts, the noise, the “you want to do what?” and the satisfaction of creating a new space with new possibilities.

Devin HarvathDevin Harvath, manager, Candid Labs, first year at Candid, Oakland office

I'm a relatively new addition to the Candid team—I really only know Candid as Candid. I'm also part of a new department called Candid Labs. That said, it's already been an exciting and eventful journey. The challenge we’ve given ourselves on the Labs team is to build a place where the greater organization can come to re-imagine existing products and services and test ideas for new ones. We hope to do that by beginning to consistently weave constituent perspectives and business model design into our decision-making process. We took some promising baby steps in Candid’s first year, but I wish we would have done more to share our vision and progress with the rest of the organization. Here's to a collaborative 2020!

Beth CulpBeth Culp, UX designer/front end web developer, 5 years Foundation Center/Candid, NYC office

As part of the design team and culture workstream, I learned so much about the extensive effort it takes to unite two large organizations and come up with a whole new identity. I loved having a hand in our new branding, and helping to create new connections in our internal culture. I am constantly impressed with our new colleagues from GuideStar, and enjoy working with them on new projects. I’m excited to move forward as Candid and find out what we will be tackling next!

Barbara CornellBarbara Cornell, administrative specialist, 4 years Foundation Center/Candid, DC office

Wow! There they were, familiar but different. Metal library shelves that for decades held Candid’s nonprofit collection now sat contentedly stuffed with all kinds of books destined for people in prison.

Our mission says we give people the information they need to do good. But when we shifted away from library operations and deeper into communities in DC, Atlanta, Cleveland, and San Francisco, we also gave things—books, bookshelves, office furniture, equipment, and surplus supplies.

We sent hundreds of boxes of books to our FINs (Funding Information Network partners), the Library of Congress, and the Philanthropy Archives at the University of Indiana. But four offices full of things that had helped us to help others suddenly needed a new cause. With support from our facilities department, Candid staff like me became overnight donation experts.

I was thrilled to be part of that effort. Candid DC found six nonprofits eager to take things like our bookshelves, computers, training-room tables, projectors, even our American flag. Along with helping prisoners get books, Candid’s things now help people learn foreign languages, find jobs after age 40, develop an underserved community, furnish homes, and promote cultural exchange.

Our different offices found lots of creative ways to donate. Cleveland, for example, used a moving company with close ties to the nonprofit community. That magnificent mover is in the process of placing our goods with organizations that need them!

Now all those familiar items have moved on to different destinies, helping people in all those ways that make nonprofits special.

Suzanne CoffmanSuzanne Coffman, editorial director, 20 years GuideStar/Candid, Williamsburg, VA, office

Some people are excited by the idea of creating something entirely new, something that’s never been seen before, that ignores conventional wisdom. They look at what could be, rather than what should be, or has been.

I am not one of them. I work best when I know the parameters I’m working in. I have a creative side, but I need a pattern to alter or amplify. And I need to know how what I’m doing fits with what everyone else is doing.

So I found Candid’s first few months … unsettling. But I’d known they would be. And I believed in Candid. Over time, I started seeing where my work fit in the overall picture. Today I believe I am contributing to Candid in a way that complements my colleagues’ work, and that I can adapt as Candid evolves. More important, I still believe in Candid and look forward to helping us deliver on our mission.

Jen BokoffJen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement, 6 years Foundation Center/Candid, Chicago (remote)

“Change is hard, even the good kind. But in times of change, the only thing you can fully control is you.” I shared this during my lightning talk at the TAG conference in November as a key takeaway from this past year. Becoming Candid was nothing short of exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. We began work on developing the brand six months prior to its launch and did that while juggling many other projects and activities that kept us actively working toward our mission. It was an absolute honor to launch this brand alongside a skilled and fun cross-cutting team of colleagues. But it was also hard; I moved onto a new team (of absolutely wonderful people) with new responsibilities while trying to navigate other work and life transitions—it was a lot. What I learned over the course of the year is how to recognize the factors I could control, and what I couldn’t. I learned to focus my energy where it would have the most impact for Candid, while remaining personally afloat as well. And now, I’m excited to move forward with fresh energy for what’s to come in 2020!

Betty BafferBetty Baffer, senior director of Candid support, 17 years GuideStar/Candid, Williamsburg, VA, office

Due to the shifts in executive team leadership leading up to the formation of Candid, the Stakeholder Support Team was shuffled around several times in a very short time span. When we did join forces with Foundation Center, our team was excited to learn that we would become one with Social Sector Outreach, under Zohra Zori. This was a huge transition and overnight, we immersed ourselves in new ways of doing things that included new SOPs (standard operating procedures), products, systems, culture, work dynamics, etc. It was as if we had joined an entirely new organization.

I found myself working with a high performing group of leaders who welcomed me with open arms. I truly felt (and feel) like I have found my tribe! I’m proud to be one of the inaugural “cross-over” employees at Candid and that the newly formed Candid Support team comprises subgroups from both legacy organizations. While there is still so much to learn as we evolve, there is much to celebrate for what we have all accomplished.

Tags: Candid