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Connecting the dots: Fighting for equity through a data partnership 

Two women working together.

When the Supreme Court gutted race-conscious admissions last summer and the American Alliance for Equal Rights followed with a lawsuit against the Fearless Fund, some in the philanthropic sector feared that demographic data had become a potential liability. So when I learned about Candid’s Demographics via Candid—an initiative that allows nonprofit organizations to share demographic information on their Candid nonprofit profile, where funders, donors, and researchers could easily access it—I was both intrigued and skeptical.  

Intrigued because as president and CEO of Women’s Funding Network (WFN), the largest global alliance of gender equity funders, I am well aware of persistent gender data gaps that hinder efforts to identify disparities, change systems, and build power. Skeptical because Candid is a nonprofit that describes its work ethic and culture as similar to that of the tech sector, which could mean either mission-driven with an innovative mindset, or appropriating the rhetoric of social movements while engaging in extractive practices. What worried me was that Demographics via Candid seemed like a major consolidation of power. I was concerned about mobilizing our network to share data that might then be packaged and sold back to those same nonprofits. As a membership organization, we could not put trust, our most powerful asset, at risk.   

Listening and addressing barriers

But now, I’m not worried. Why? In an environment fraught with fear mongering and skeptical potential allies, Candid persisted in enhancing Demographics via Candid.  

Candid took note of the barriers nonprofits faced, created resources, and stayed true to their intent of reducing the nonprofits’ burden of providing data to multiple stakeholders. They sought diverse perspectives in focus groups and made structural changes to address outdated language, power dynamics, and privacy concerns. They amplified the voices and perspectives of women of color leaders on this platform and in their webinars. They made Foundation Directory more accessible by removing the paywall for small nonprofits when they earn a Gold Seal of Transparency. They built a public API and released a public data set. Ultimately, it was Candid’s responsiveness and emphasis on relationship building that shifted my perspective from uncertainty to confidence.  

Together, launching an intersectional data tool 

With the goal of making intersectional insights more accessible, WFN and Candid are partnering to co-create the first-ever public intersectional dashboard built on Demographics via Candid data. The tool will enable users to run comparative analyses on executive leadership trends by race and gender within contexts such as location, organization size, and operating budget.  

Grounded in a participatory approach, the tool will be designed by WFN members and built by WFN’s data and insights team. This partnership meets a community need to apply an intersectional lens to data analysis and enables funders and nonprofits to gain insight into disparities masked by aggregated data. It also provides a quantitative baseline to evaluate and build upon equity strategies.    

Intersectional demographic data, vital to feminist philanthropy

WFN is a deeply intersectional movement of funders fighting for policies and standards across lines of race, class, and gender. WFN members know firsthand how data gaps and aggregate bias limit their ability to advance social progress within their communities.  

That’s why Candid’s invitation to share data in one place is compelling. That said, although Candid released a public Tableau dashboard last year, the tool follows the standard industry practice of aggregating data by race and gender separately. Our partnership, however, will create a way for anyone to connect the dots. In addition, our collaboration will serve as a blueprint for inclusive, participatory design and community engagement while simultaneously addressing an urgent need for disaggregated data in the sector. Together, we aim to model best practices on incorporating community voices into technical design, as well as to provide guidance on how to integrate intersectional analysis into data collection practices, products, and reports. 

As the philanthropic sector becomes increasingly data-driven through the proliferation of AI, demographic data gaps could further amplify existing biases and inequities. The more organizations choose to participate, the better the data will be for all. I encourage all data platforms to follow Candid’s lead in structuring data in a way that allows for robust intersectional reporting and analysis. If we all do our part, we can ensure that the absence of data is not conflated with the absence of impact.  

Photo credit: FG Trade via Getty Images


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