Candid: Connecting people to data with Elasticsearch

With more than 10 million annual users and 200-plus data partners, GuideStar, who recently merged with Foundation Center to create a new organization called Candid, is the go-to source for nonprofit information. Candid’s mission is to get you the information you need to do good. They do this by connecting people who want to change the world with the resources they need to do it.

Toward that end, GuideStar maintains online profiles of more than 2.7 million charities across the United States. The profiles are populated with information on file with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as well as inputted directly from the actual nonprofits and other partners across the nonprofit sector.

An Elastic Cause Award honoree

Core to connecting people to this data is the nonprofit’s search engine, which is powered by Elasticsearch.

This project, which is in continuous development to refine and enhance the search experience, recently was honored with an Elastic Cause Award based on Candid’s inspiration for bettering the world.

“Search is the entry point of GuideStar and, now, Candid. Without it we can't enable users to find the data that they're looking for on the the charities, NGOs, and causes that matter to them. So, yes, Elasticsearch is central to,” says Shane Ward, Senior Director of Technology at Candid.

Elasticsearch is “part of our DNA”

“Basically, Elasticsearch has become part of our DNA at and our API platforms. It is far and away producing the more relevant results than we had in the past,” Ward says.

The organization strongly believes that better data equals a better world.

“Every day, nonprofit leaders, grantmakers, government officials, academic researchers, and journalists use GuideStar data to make intelligent decisions about the social sector. We strive to provide the highest-quality, most complete nonprofit information available to help build confidence in the nonprofit sector and amplify the voices of nonprofits of all shapes, sizes, and focus area,” Ward says.

Elastic “fantastic”

Nearly a decade ago, when the technology it was using was at its “end of life,” Ward says, the nonprofit switched to Elasticsearch, and a few years back moved to Elasticsearch Service to help Candid with new and future search use cases.

“When we first turned it on, of course we were nervous. But we also had confidence that we had a dedicated support team from Elastic that they were right there with us,” Ward says. “We've got a little ceremony that we do around the office. When we complete a big project we take out a big gong, and we ring the gong. So, once we flipped it on, and we kind of let it fully bake in for about a week, we had our gong ceremony. It was fantastic.”

Over the next few years, Candid intends to harness the Elastic Stack to:

  • Enable people to be able to find volunteer opportunities
  • Create network diagrams of people and the organizations they are involved with
  • Incorporate more diverse nonprofit data to create a more holistic view of the social sector
  • Auto-classify organizations into cause areas and taxonomies
  • Incorporate map-based search functionality
  • Create funding maps to highlight where charitable giving is going and what areas still need more attention

For a deeper dive into Candid and its use of the Elastic Stack, see our recent feature of the nonprofit.

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