Candid is one of the largest platforms for philanthropy in the US. It was founded in 2019 as a merger between GuideStar, an organisation that provided information on non-profit organisations (NPOs), and Foundation Center, which offered information on funders. The two came together as Candid to help change the world for the better by giving people the information they need to do good.
Candid complies with American standards for NPOs. The organisation aims to provide the most comprehensive data and insights available on the nonprofit sector in the US. Candid was formed in 2019 when two traditional online platforms joined forces: GuideStar and Foundation Center. Today, the platform combines its tools for understanding non-profits through GuideStar and information on funders through Foundation Directory with new resources to provide more wide-ranging, real-time information on the sector.
Transparency is a top priority at Candid. The clearer an NPO’s profile, the more identifiable its motivation. Nonprofit organisations may claim their profile on Candid. As non-profits provide more information about their work, they can earn Candid’s Seals of Transparency. NPOs increase their visibility on Candid platforms – and on fundraising platforms that integrate Candid tools – by elaborating on their mission, staff, leadership, programmes, goals and more.
Here’s how it works.
Candid uses Seals to indicate the transparency of an organisation. There are four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Each Seal builds on the information provided in the previous level. An organisation earns a Bronze Seal when it provides such basic information as its name, email address, URL, payment details, mission statement and names of the leadership team. Silver Seal organisations must also publish detailed descriptions of their programmes and geographical information. At this level, it becomes clear whether a group is giving money or seeking it, although the amount of detail remains optional. However, an organisation may include as much information as it likes. The Gold Seal requires further transparency, particularly in terms of finance (total income, programme expenditure, administrative costs, total expenditure, total assets, liabilities, net assets or fund balances). Figures must be from the most recent fiscal years available. For the Platinum Seal, at least one key programme result or metric must be from the current business year. All profiles must be updated annually for an organisation to maintain its current seal.
The Seals work!
Researchers at Villanova University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee compared non-profits that received a Seal of Transparency with those that did not. The result: on average, NPOs with a Seal received 53% more donations in the following year than those without a Seal.
In the US, the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 provides the public with financial details about non-profit organisations. Given they are tax exempt, NPOs are scrutinised closely. The IRS requires detailed information on spending and earning habits in order to prevent organisations from abusing their tax-exempt status. Form 990 presents a picture of an NPO’s history, which can help donors and foundations decide whether the organisation is trustworthy and using its donations or investments wisely.
Candid and Form 990
Candid helps donors and foundations decide which non-profit organisations they would like to support by including the organisation’s past 990s on their profile page. This helps show supporters how a particular NPO’s expenditure and income may have changed from year to year. Interested donors can easily get in touch with an organisation by using the contact information on the Candid profile.
The Candid business model
Of Candid’s revenue, 85% derives from products and services. Candid offers subscriptions to its GuideStar and Foundation Directory tools for those looking for deeper, richer information. Candid also hosts webinars on fundraising and nonprofit capacity building. Institutional donors and a handful of individuals account for about 15% of Candid’s revenue.
Education and consulting
Candid has a wide range of tools to help organisations tell their story. Candid Learning is the go-to resource for all live and on-demand training sessions, webinars and other resources designed to empower NPOs. The Candid blog keeps NPO and foundation leaders informed of the latest in philanthropy, including tips and training, trends, issues, new data and insights. Philanthropy News Digest (PND) publishes major news pieces on the sector. These include philanthropy-related articles and features curated by media outlets across the country, invitations to tender and employment opportunities. At Candid Support, staff answer questions about charities, fundraising and use of the platform. The chat function allows for easy exchange.
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Candid CEO Ann Mei Chang discusses the value of transparent data and why she compares Candid with LinkedIn.
What problems does the social sector face today?
Global challenges are becoming more dynamic and complex: the pandemic, climate change and geopolitical conflicts with worldwide impact. These developments have been accelerated by technological advances, which means that problems and the need for solutions are cropping up more quickly as well. At the same time, our institutions, governments, and non-profit organisations are not evolving fast enough. We have to find a way to reinvent ourselves in the non-profit sector and beyond, in order to get ahead of these issues.
Data means knowledge. Can the non-profit sector keep up with private and public sectors as digitalisation advances?
NPOs and foundations already use a lot of technology in their everyday work. At Candid, we are connecting organisations across the social sector. Candid, which was formed from the merger of GuideStar and Foundation Center, has created the most comprehensive source of social sector data in the US. All the information one might need about NPOs and other foundations is now in one place. There’s a lot of power in that. This is a huge win for the sector.
“At Candid, we are connecting people across the social sector.”
Ann Mei Chang, CEO Candid
We are well aware of the fact that the social sector often lags behind the private sector. One reason is that funders tend to focus more on programmes than on infrastructure. In contrast, platform operators are usually the most highly valued in the tech sector. There has historically been underinvestment in platforms in the non-profit sector.
Does Candid have any competition?
There are numerous actors that serve different needs of the sector, many of which we partner with. I feel certain that Candid has the most comprehensive database, but we are always looking to improve as well. Since the merger, we have been steadily integrating both platforms’ capabilities. And we try to bundle all the information we have about the non-profit sector on Candid. We also work with a wide range of research and technology partners to continually improve our data and the insights we draw from it.
How important is transparency for NPOs in finding supporters?
Transparency is at the heart of our values. The more relevant organisational information is shared, the clearer the non-profit profiles become. More information helps one make better decisions. We encourage both foundations and non-profit organisations to share as much information as possible. The same also applies to us. As a non-profit, our mission-driven work in the public interest means it’s incumbent on us to model transparency for others. After all, we recognise NPOs and foundations with Candid’s Seals of Transparency based on the amount of information they share with us on their non-profit profile.
How do people meet on the platform?
We see ourselves as a version of LinkedIn for the non-profit sector. LinkedIn brings together job seekers and employers; Candid aims to connect non-profits seeking funding with funders, so that participants can find better partners more quickly. NPOs can publish their information directly on Candid, telling their story in their own words. What’s great is that, whether you’re a major NPO or a tiny newcomer, you have the same opportunity to present your work on your non-profit profile, Just as on LinkedIn. It’s why we think this is such a big deal, in particular for small organisations.
Do you also use algorithms for matching?
Yes, that’s already in place. We use algorithms for geographical data, so the platform can see, for instance, if someone has invested in projects in Switzerland.
Who uses Candid the most?
Both NPOs and foundations are active on the platform, but we probably
have the most non-profits users simply given the number of organisations.
“Whether you’re a major NPO or a tiny newcomer, you have the same opportunity to present your work.”
Ann Mei Chang, CEO Candid
Where are you today on your roadmap?
We are working to present all the data and information Candid has to offer on a unified platform, fulfilling our promise to provide the information people need to do good all in one place. Together with our research partners, we are collecting a wide variety of data to improve our product and recommendations. We work hard
at that every single day. There’s still a lot to do, but we believe we are on track to achieve our Vision 2030.
How important are foundations to the welfare of the American people?
Foundations and individual donors play a very important role. In the US, we talk about three primary sectors: the private sector, the public sector and the non-profit sector. Many non-profit organisations work with private and public sector institutions in the areas in which these systems fail. For instance, there are many situations where state measures simply do not work and people fall through the cracks. That’s where the non-profit sector steps in. And that’s where collaboration across sectors is crucial.