Data to support the relentless pursuit of racial equity
Amid the racial reckoning of 2020 and the inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. philanthropic sector overall responded with a heightened commitment to racial equity. This shift was marked by commitments of increased funding, greater flexibility in grantmaking practices, and a focus on social and economic systems transformation.
Based on Candid data processed as of October 2023, approximately 78,133 grants valued at $16.8 billion have been awarded to advance racial equity since 2020. This was a considerable commitment, but many in the sector saw a need to measure the impact and effectiveness of such funding—specifically, whether the funds were going to nonprofits led by communities of color or to more traditional, white-led institutions.
My many years of experience collecting and analyzing data as an evaluator naturally lead me to ask: What has been the measurable impact of this important shift? Particularly, as many foundations have bolstered their efforts to collect demographic data from grantees, have changes in how we collect that data helped address inequitable funding practices and bring about systems transformation? The best way to answer these questions is to measure and analyze consistent data.
The importance of data
Data helps make the case for increased investments in racial equity. Good data informs our understanding of racial disparities, influences our decision-making processes toward more equitable outcomes, increases the effectiveness of interventions in underserved communities, and impacts the overall progress of our journey to achieve racial equity.
Candid recently launched its Demographics via Candid initiative to “empower nonprofits to share their demographic data one time (Data1x), on their Candid profile, where it can be accessed and re-used by all.” Demographics via Candid standardizes demographic data collection, provides the most up-to-date information available, and allows funders to easily view the demographics of any organization that has shared this data. Therefore, as more nonprofits include demographics in their Candid profiles and more funders partner with Candid to use this data, nonprofits will be burdened with fewer duplicative requests for data. Funders will receive more accurate data, and the data-sharing process will become more efficient.
At the 2022 Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) conference, a few fellow evaluators and I discussed the findings of the AAPIP report Seeking to Soar. The report, citing Candid data, exposed vast funding disparities, with just 0.2% of philanthropic funding going to support AAPI communities. Disheartened but not surprised by such findings, several evaluation leaders from peer foundations and I formed the Foundation Equity Data Workgroup. Through the group, we are taking action to help build a more equitable, efficient, effective, and transparent philanthropic sector through the strategic use of evaluation and data.
Shared data for shared solutions
Shared demographic data collection among nonprofits and funders is a critical tool in advancing racial equity. It involves systematically gathering and analyzing data related to the racial and ethnic demographics of nonprofit staff, leadership, board members, and the communities they serve. Our first task was to develop a shared definition for “people of color-led and people of color-serving” organizations.
We quickly learned, however, of the complexity of defining the terms. We decided to develop a shared definition for benchmarking only.
We define an organization as led by a person of color when the CEO, president, or executive director (in cases of co-leads, at least one) is not non-Hispanic white, AND at least 50% of board members are not non-Hispanic white. Moving forward, we will use the more than 64,000 records in the Demographics via Candid database to test the validity and reliability of the draft definition.
At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Demographics via Candid helps us fulfill our commitment to embed racial equity and racial healing in all that we do. In 2015, we began asking all grantseekers to provide demographic data. We created our own intake form and gathered data from more than 3,000 U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organizations and asked grantees to update their data annually. We have conducted grantee profile analyses as well as cross-sectional comparisons by geography and issue area. These analyses are strictly consumed and discussed by internal stakeholder groups such as the board of trustees, program teams, and executive council and in aggregated forms.
We learned, however, that in many cases, nonprofits would have to provide this same information multiple times to multiple funders. Demographics via Candid eliminates this inefficiency. It also helps address some questions beyond our own data, which we realized was limited and lacked context. We did not know what the potential grantee “universe” looked like. Where do we find more mission-aligned organizations? How do we expand our base of grantees?
The customized Demographics via Candid database provides a clear, consistent picture of the diversity of nonprofit leadership—which is critical to determining whether we are on track, where we need to increase our funding, how we validate our racial equity goals, and, ultimately, substantiate the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s commitments to racial equity in real, practical, and meaningful ways that drive healing and reduce racial disparities for all.
Our collective responsibility
The philanthropic sector is facing a pivotal moment where our actions can lead to significant and lasting change. Demographics via Candid has created a database with demographic information about tens of thousands of nonprofits; but many more tens of thousands of organizations have yet to share. Broader participation from funders and nonprofits will give us a more complete and accurate understanding of the landscape. By embracing shared demographic data collection, we can collectively work toward a future where racial equity grows from aspiration to reality.
This effort requires the commitment of every funder and nonprofit—not only to collect this data, but also to act upon the insights it provides. I encourage you to join us in this vital endeavor. Together, let us use the data from Demographics via Candid as a powerful tool to advance racial equity, foster greater understanding, and build a more just and inclusive society.
Register here for a panel discussion on March 12 with Huilan Krenn, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s director of learning and impact, and Cathleen Clerkin, Candid’s associate vice president of research & insights, about Demographics via Candid.