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What it takes to be more data driven

By Caroline McDowell (she/her) & Asia Hadley
May 2, 2022

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As our social sector continues to become more data-driven, relevant, and responsive, we need better information on which we can all rely. By nature our field hosts a wide array of organizations all in service of good. Centralizing what we can know about each organization is essential to building a field that is effective, efficient and equitable. 

As a membership organization that educates, connects, and advocates for North Carolina nonprofits, the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits (the Center) looks to sites like Candid’s GuideStar for data to support their nonprofit programs and recruitment. So, when Candid first approached the Center about its initiative to encourage more organizations to earn a Gold Seal, in turn providing richer information on the sector, the Center's team was intrigued.  

By partnering with nonprofit associations, funders, philanthropy serving organizations, and other social sector organizations, Candid seeks to increase the input of basic organizational information, reduce waste, reveal diversity, and build shared identity. The Center was one of the first organizations to work with Candid in this capacity. The Center embarked on this journey first by looking up their own Candid Profile on GuideStar to go through the steps to update it to see exactly what they’d be asking their members to do, how long it took, and how difficult it was. Turns out, it was a very reasonable process. 

Organizations can earn Seals of Transparency and tell their full story on their profile by adding information about their programs, measures of progress, operations—including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) information—and financials. Candid and the Center collaborated to encourage Center members to update their profiles with enough information to earn a Gold Seal, which requires organizations to share demographic information about their leadership. The goal—supporting nonprofit transparency, especially through more comprehensive data around board and staff demographics, organizational structure, and DEI practices—underscores a lot of what the Center encourages through their own programs and training.  

To achieve this, the Center’s team put together an outline of messaging that would complement their programming, fitting pieces into their monthly member newsletters and social media calendar. They shared quite a bit from Candid’s articles, social posts, and training. Throughout the campaign, they focused on a few key topics to make the case with their members: 

  • Fundraising: It was easy to encourage nonprofits to update their profile as a legitimate way to put their mission and work out there for funders and donors to see. 
  • Transparency: It’s a best practice for nonprofits to be transparent in their operations, governance, and finances. An updated Candid Profile checks all those boxes.  
  • Storytelling (aka mission advocacy): The form 990 is a very public way for nonprofits to tell their stories and one of the main sections in the profile. 

Within the first four months of the campaign, the Center achieved a 91% increase among their members in 2021 Gold Seals (from 35 to 67). If a membership organization like the Center can achieve even a 20% increase, that’s progress in the right direction. And, as a benefit for working with Candid, the Center was able to do more in-depth research on nonprofits in North Carolina to inform their program planning and membership appeals. They also received a downloadable file of all the demographic data available in GuideStar. 

As more funders and organizations come together to act on their shared goals, we will collectively decrease the burden on nonprofits to provide duplicate information for funders. For more information on how you can be part of this work, please reach out to Candid’s partnerships team 

To acknowledge nonprofits’ time and effort, Candid is currently offering a free year of Foundation Directory Essential to small nonprofits with budgets under $1 million in revenue or expenses when they earn a 2022 Candid Gold Seal. Learn more here.