New research published today by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) investigates the untapped potential of data held by charity funders. OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley was interviewed as part of the research, alongside several other UK community foundations.
NPC’s report ‘Valuing Data: How to use it in your grant-making‘ starts by making the point that just through the process of making grants, the UK’s many funders are generating a huge amount of data about the charitable sector and its impact. This data could be of great use to other funders, grant applicants and to those generating the data, for example by painting a picture of social needs, supporting evidence-based decision-making about future funding, or reducing inefficiencies in the grant-making sector. However, until recently such data has only been used internally by funding organisations, if at all.
In addition, charitable organisations don’t always find it easy to capitalise on the vast amount of data about social needs that is already publicly available. As OCF’s Jayne Woodley comments in the report, “It’s not that the information isn’t already available, it’s more that it’s not easily accessible – no charity has the time to trawl through all the various public sources and make sense of everything.” Recent publications such as community foundations’ Vital Signs and OCF’s Oxfordshire Uncovered are cited as accessible, credible resumés of relevant data in this area.
The report argues that for grant application data to become useful to the sector, it must be openly shared as widely as possible, allowing the network of funders to achieve a “critical mass” – the point where there is enough information being shared to gain a genuine understanding of the funding landscape. Some funders, including OCF, are pioneering the publication of open data by signing up to the 360 Giving standard.
The report concludes with various recommendations for both individual funding organisations and the sector as a whole, most notably suggesting that data is seen as a valuable asset just like money or people. The report asks: “What questions would others have that your data might help answer? Could it be a resource for grantees or applicants, or even directly for beneficiaries?” By starting with the questions they want answers to, it is suggested that organisations could start to use data for ground-breaking purposes that could transform the way they carry out their work.
Download the full report here and read about the contributions from community foundations on page 10.