This morning the Foundation Center and GuideStar announced that they have joined forces to become a new nonprofit entity named Candid. 

Candid will bring together these two information giants with expertise in data, technology, research, and training to serve the social sector—nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, and individual donors.  Building on more than 85 years of combined experience, Candid will provide information about who is working on (and funding) what in the world of philanthropy and nonprofits.  Bradford Smith, previously president of Foundation Center, will be the president of Candid; Jacob Harold, previously president and CEO of GuideStar, will be Candid’s executive vice president.

Nonprofit and fundraising professionals are very well acquainted with these two platforms, which are go-to sources for over 16 million users. This merger will undoubtedly affect nonprofit and fundraising professionals in the coming months and years. Users will still be able to rely on the GuideStar and Foundation Center services that are so vital to their daily work, while receiving a steady stream of added features.  Currently in the planning phase, these initiatives will be developed over a period of years and include:

  • weaving together databases to enable much more inclusive search results;
  • enabling results-driven analysis based upon improved program data;
  • expanding and accelerating the adoption of data standards across the field;
  • driving a common profile—and, eventually, a common grant application and reporting framework—by providing a consistent data framework, a next-generation distribution system, and place-based campaigns;
  • providing people working in the social sector with opportunities to develop skills to help them succeed;
  • creating social functionality, including “give lists” and deeper integration into social media platforms;
  • developing a technology and knowledge-driven marketplace for RFPs;
  • creating a fundraising planning tool for nonprofits; and
  • directly integrating data and analysis into the tools that nonprofits, foundations, and their partners use every day.


“We aspire for Candid to be an institution that benefits everyone, and the best way to achieve this mission is for Candid to be a nonprofit itself," said Mari Kuraishi, co-chair of the Candid board of directors. 

To fund the costs of creating Candid and build for the future, nearly $27 million has been raised from the Bill & Melinda Gates, Charles Stewart Mott, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations and other supporters. Early stage funding for feasibility studies and legal services was provided by the Lodestar Foundation and the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative.

Possible Downfalls

While this development has been received with approval by most in the sector, some skeptics worry about the effects of a merger that will, in effect, establish a huge monopoly in the field. With a combined budget of almost $40 million, it will likely drown out most if not all competitors. The gains and possibilities are exciting and obvious, but will we in the nonprofit sphere lose something by centralizing these platforms? Is there a benefit to having these platforms compete for our business rather than assume they will have it either way?

Ruth McCambridge of Nonprofit Quarterly wonders whether the merger "could develop a transactional culture that sees it as too expensive to keep the data accessible to a good part of the sector," adding that "the new organization’s willingness and ability to function as a platform, collaborating generously with others, will be key, as will pricing structures."

We will also want to keep an eye out on whether Candid will remain a neutral data resource for nonprofits, or whether it will expand into an advisory or "evaluator" role where it gives preference to some nonprofits or ideologies over others. In 2017, GuideStar faced significant public outcry when it labeled 46 organizations in its website as "hate groups" based on the Southern Poverty Law Center's controversial recommendations (SPLC's partisan “findings” labeled several mainstream conservative groups as hate groups, reducing them to the level of actual hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan). To GuideStar's credit, they quickly reversed their decision, acknowledging that "there is a deep, nuanced conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds regarding how we address—and identify—hate groups."

Jacob Harold has made it clear that GuideStar's purpose is not to be a "charity evaluator" or "watchdog," but simply an open nonprofit data resource. There is no reason to believe that Candid will take a different position on this, but it's certainly something we'll be following in the coming months and years. 

 

Source from Globe Newswire, New York, N.Y., Feb. 05, 2019. Modified for this publication. Updated commentary as of 12:00pm EST.