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GuideStar Blog

Bridging the Nonprofit Knowledge Gap Together

Jacob HaroldIt’s been almost two months exactly since Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces to become a brand new nonprofit entity known as Candid. These two infrastructure organizations have a long history with the IS [Independent Sector] community, and it’s quite a feat to have completed a merger on this scale, bringing together more than 85 years of combined expertise and experience.

After giving the dust some time to settle, IS President and CEO Dan Cardinali reached out to Jacob Harold, executive vice president at Candid, to find out more about the history and the future of this historic pairing.

Dan Cardinali: Tell me how all this started? What was the need in the infrastructure space that got you thinking about a merger?

Jacob Harold: Around the world there are millions of organizations trying to do good. But as a field we can’t clearly say who is doing what, where.

There are real consequences to that knowledge gap. It’s too hard to learn from each other. It’s too hard to collaborate. It’s too hard to make good giving decisions.

There’s another gap that makes this even harder: the cultural chasm between nonprofits and foundations. Here in the US, we’ve only reinforced that gap by having grantmaker information in one place and nonprofit information in another. Data systems are even more fragmented around the world.

We think Candid can help bridge these gaps.

And our shared task is more than just bringing together different data sets. The sector needs infrastructure that allows people to actually make sense of information, to ask and answer questions that identify better solutions for the future. Candid can’t do that alone. But we do think that with the combined resources of GuideStar and Foundation Center we can offer a stable platform for others to build upon.

DC: How hard was it to make this happen? What were the biggest hurdles you faced?

JH: I won’t lie and say this was a painless process. Candid brought together two organizations with a combined eight decades of history. We all had to give up core parts of our identity to birth something new. That is strategically hard and emotionally challenging.

But here’s the thing: that’s our job. We’re employed to do the hard work of providing data for the hard work of social change. We’re having to figure out how to invest the time, energy, and attention necessary to pull off this integration while still continuing with our core operations.

Along the way, we’re trying to honor the identities of GuideStar and Foundation Center while we build a new identity as Candid. It’s bittersweet: difficult to let go of something we’re proud of; exciting to create something new. But we are confident it’s the right thing to do for our work.

DC: What is the most immediate benefit that you see for the sector? When will people start to realize that something is different?

JH: We have years of work ahead of integrating data sets and creating new tools. Right now, we’re focused on keeping all our services going at full force ... while we integrate the two organizations.  Our external branding has changed a lot—but we know it will take time to get our 30+ internal systems and 200+ staff aligned as a single, well-oiled machine!

There are, though, some users who will see changes soon. For example, our custom data partnerships are already bringing together nonprofit and grants data. Our trainings are already updated with new content. And we will start integrating GuideStar tools into the Funding Information Networka set of 400 libraries and research centers that offer free access to Foundation Center tools.

The bigger changes in our tools will come soon enough. Over the next couple of years we’ll see deep integration of organization-level data to enrich the grantseeking experience; new recommendation engines; new kinds of partnerships with major technology platforms; new curricula for our training programs; and more.

DC: And in the longer term, what changes systematically to make the sector stronger? What’s your blue-sky scenario?

JH: Long-term planning for Candid must involve the field as a whole. We can’t assume that we alone know what is best for the entire social sector. Over the next year we’ll be running a “listening tour” to do exactly that: listen. So we’re not going to release any definitive long-term plans until we’ve had a chance to listen, think, and listen some more.

We do certainly have dreams which we’ll be checking with the field. We dream of a single tool that integrates data about nonprofits, foundations, grants, social issues, and academic research about what works. We dream of a single common profile for all organizations ... a profile that can serve as the seed of a common application and reporting process. We dream of mechanisms of learning across borders so that we in the US can learn from our colleagues around the world and vice-versa.

So we’re diving into a process we’re calling “Candid 2030” to take the existing tools and networks of GuideStar and Foundation Center and articulate how we can and should build upon them. In partnership with the field, we think we can create a shared information system that serves all of us working for a better world.

This post is reprinted from the Independent Sector Blog.

Dan CardinaliDan Cardinali is president and CEO of Independent Sector.

Topics: Jacob Harold Candid