We’re listening: Updates to the race and ethnicity options on the Candid profile
On February 14, Candid launched Demographics via Candid, a campaign through which we partner with organizations across the social sector to encourage demographic data sharing. The goal is to reduce the burden associated with collecting and sharing this information for nonprofits, while simultaneously providing the sector with data it needs to meaningfully advance equity. In line with that goal, Candid recently made refinements to the way we collect data about race and ethnicity. In this blog, we share details about the changes, their implications, and the thinking that went into making them.
The demographic section of Candid profiles allows organizations to share data about the race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status of their staff and board. The table below highlights the changes we’ve made to the race and ethnicity options. We’ve added two new categories – Middle Eastern/North African and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander – and updated the labels for several existing ones.
|Asian American/Pacific Islander/Asian
|Asian/Asian American (label change)
|Black/African American (label change)
|Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx (no change)
|Native American/American Indian/Indigenous
|Native American/American Indian/Alaska Native/Indigenous (label change)
|Middle Eastern/North African (NEW)
|Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NEW)
|Multi-racial/Multi-ethnic (two or more races or ethnicities)
|Multi-racial/Multi-ethnic (two or more races or ethnicities) (no change)
|White/Caucasian/European (no change)
|Different identity (please specify)
|Prefer to identify with another race or ethnicity (please specify) (label change)
|Decline to state
|Decline to state (no change)
These changes reflect feedback we’ve received from those sharing this data on their Candid profile. Importantly, they also bring Candid’s efforts into much closer alignment with existing and emerging federal standards on collecting race and ethnicity data. For example, since 1997 federal standards have called for the collection of data on Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander identity separate from Asian identity, and included “Alaska Native” in the category for American Indians. The government’s recent proposal for updating the 1997 standards – open for public comment until April 12, 2023! – recommends collecting race and ethnicity as a single question, as Candid does, and adding Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) as a new category, separate from White. The latter has been a long-felt gap; the MENA community has advocated for this addition for more than 30 years.
What are the practical implications of these changes?
Candid’s hope is that these refinements give individuals across the sector more room to select the race or ethnicity with which they truly identify. Yet, as is the case any time you change how data is collected, the updates have implications for how the data is represented and understood. In particular:
- New categories of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern/North African will initially be underreported. As organizations begin to share their demographic data using these new options, the numbers will increase.
- In some cases, former respondents will be misclassified until they update their information. For example, if someone identifying as ‘Pacific Islander’ selected Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander prior to these changes being implemented, they will be included under the newly defined Asian/Asian American category until they update their information. We’re actively reaching out to organizations to encourage these updates.
- Over time, we expect to see fluctuations in the distribution of responses across categories. For example, if people are newly selecting ‘Middle Eastern/North African’ but had previously selected ‘White’ or ‘Different identity’ (or some other category), those aggregate figures may go down as a result. In analyzing the data, we’ll need to be careful about how we represent these data fluctuations so as not to conflate them with actual demographic changes among nonprofit staff.
What was Candid’s approach to making these changes?
Collecting data on people’s identity is sensitive and complex. Among other things: the terms communities and individuals use to describe their identity can change over time; the identities individuals associate with can evolve; and generational and other differences may influence which terms individual members of a community prefer. While concerns regarding appropriate terminology often take center stage, practical considerations also matter; a “perfect” list of terms will have little impact if there are serious barriers to collecting, sharing, or using the data.
With these challenges in mind, Candid used the following principles to guide our decisions on updates to this section:
- Put a premium on nonprofits’ time: A major objective of Demographics via Candid is to reduce the time nonprofits spend collecting and sharing demographic data about their organizations. We recognize there is a demand for more granular information on race and ethnicity. Yet, we also know that nonprofits’ capacity to collect and report this data is limited. Given this reality, our aim is to keep this section as simple as possible.
- Maximize participation: For this demographic data to make a difference, it must be collected at scale. The demographic section of Candid’s profiles is therefore designed to encourage the widest participation possible. This is another reason why, for now, we’ve chosen to focus data collection on a limited – yet nonetheless comprehensive – number of race and ethnicity categories.
- Align with existing standards: Candid commissioned Viewpoint Consulting to research and provide input on these potential updates. This work considered: research conducted for the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, two key sources of U.S. race and ethnicity data; a review of demographic surveys that nonprofits are currently asked to complete; and the most recent research conducted by demographers and advocates on emergent identities and terms. In aligning with existing but evolving standards, Candid hopes to accomplish two things: (1) to minimize the work nonprofits undertake to share demographic data via Candid (we don’t want to be “yet another survey”); and (2) to make Candid’s demographic data inclusive but still interoperable with other data sets (for example, data on the demographic makeup of the communities that nonprofits serve).
It’s fair to say the sector is in the early stages of figuring out how to collect, share, and use demographic data. Put plainly, we’re all learning. For that reason, Candid is committed to establishing strong feedback loops with those contributing and using this data. We know our tools for collecting and sharing demographic information will need to evolve over time. As they do, we want to ensure that changes are driven by input from the sector about what it needs versus what we imagine it does.
Yet this effort to make the sector more equitable will only succeed if we as a sector are acting together. What does this mean in practice?
- Whether you are a funder or a nonprofit, contribute demographic data via your Candid profile. Our “how to” guide provides guidance on how to collect this information.
- If you’ve previously shared your demographic data, review it and update it as needed.
- If you’re a funder or any other organization that requests demographic data, use this freely available information rather than collect it from scratch. We are actively working to make it easy to do so, including through partnerships with grants software management vendors. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more.
Fundamentally, efforts to advance equity in the sector are about making our society more equitable. At Candid, we’re honored to play a role in enabling and supporting the sector to track its progress.