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Inside Candid’s first year: the executive team

By Suzanne Coffman
February 3, 2020

Jacob Harold and Brad Smith shake hands after signing the documents that combined Foundation Center and GuideStar into a new organization, Candid.

Last Saturday, February 1, marked a big day for Candid: the one-year anniversary of our creation. After some last-minute delays, that afternoon Foundation Center president Brad Smith and GuideStar president and CEO Jacob Harold signed the documents that combined the two organizations into Candid. Brad became president of the new entity and Jacob executive vice president. Later that afternoon, Brad and Jacob hosted Candid’s first organization-wide meeting (we had met before during the lead-up to Candid’s launch, but as two separate organizations). Employees gathered in person in Candid’s many offices and via videoconference. On February 5, we announced Candid’s formation to the world.

Some of Candid’s executive team took the time to share their thoughts on our first year. Here’s what they said.

Bradford K. SmithBrad Smith, president

As I look over Candid’s first year, I see several things we did well, one thing I underestimated, and some I wish we had done better.

Some of the things we did well: kicking off Candid with an active and committed board (made up of all members of the two legacy organizations’ boards); starting our journey as Candid with an executive team in place and key responsibilities defined; communicating behind the scenes with key stakeholders, including funders and staff, in the weeks leading up to Candid’s launch, and with the world once we launched; beginning to merge programs and systems; and providing our stakeholders with uninterrupted service while we started transitioning Foundation Center and GuideStar programs into Candid offerings.

The one thing I underestimated was the toll that bringing together our two organizations would take on the executive team.  Different styles, substantive disagreements, and the stress of having increased responsibilities with less sovereignty (compared to their pre-merger roles) resulted in three team members moving on.

One of the things we could have done better was communicating internally and externally after we announced Candid’s creation. One reason we fell down in this area was that the people who would have led these efforts were exhausted from the intense, detail-oriented run-up to the legal combination of our two organizations. Another was that much of our progress occurred behind the scenes; people outside Candid probably weren’t going to care when we launched a new, organization-wide timekeeping and payroll system. We learned, however, that we needed to let people, especially staff, know what was going on, even if it was not terribly exciting.  We have gotten better at this, but there is still room for improvement.

I also believe that we have built significant momentum toward being one organization rather than two nonprofits working side by side. Candid culture is being built directly through the work of the Culture and Change Management workstream group, but also indirectly through the other workstream groups that everyday work together to create systems and processes essential to our future. Candid staff of all origins—Foundation Center, GuideStar, and new hires who have only known Candid—are passionate about achieving our mission and making a difference.  The same is true for the board, which is an inspiration and tremendous source of support for our efforts.

Jacob HaroldJacob Harold, executive vice president

We’ve been incredibly lucky that social sector has been so supportive. Last year, we were mostly focused on the nuts-and-bolts of integration. But when we lifted up our heads, we would hear funders, nonprofits, researchers, and others cheering on the creation of Candid. And that support meant a lot. It still does.

Mizmun KusairiMizmun (Miz) Kusairi, vice president for planning

I am thrilled that Candid Convene, our first staff retreat where 191 staff spent two days in Baltimore, last October was an overall big success! It was the first time a lot of staff got to meet their colleagues in person (even some from within the same “Classic” organization). The combination of formal and informal sessions really helped to deepen some relationships and kick-start new ones across the organization. Two of the most popular sessions included: small group activities—where staff got to pick their own adventure from haunted bar crawl to intimate dinner at a renowned soul food restaurant—and Candid in Practice—a customer/partner panel where we featured conversations with some key partners like Maryland Nonprofits, Johns Hopkins University, and Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Zohra ZoriZohra Zori, vice president for social sector outreach

Two of the things I’m most proud of are combining the two classic teams in the Bay Area and DC under one roof and the shift of our Atlanta and Cleveland offices into coworking spaces.

The office moves now allow our Candid colleagues to convene and collaborate in the same space: the learning is ongoing, and the relationships are being strengthened on a daily basis among teams from various departments/functions. The coworking model in Atlanta and Cleveland allows us to shift our people resources away from facilities (library) management to deeper programming in the local and regional communities we serve, meeting users where they are.

Look for more on Candid’s first year this month

Watch this blog for more posts inspired by our anniversary, and follow us on Twitter for factoids about Candid and the people who make it go.

Tags: Candid