Charity Support, Advice, Impact Measurement, Philanthropy Impact – NPC

Innovations in philanthropy: open data

By Rachel Wharton 15 October 2014

The Great British public donates billions to charity each year—from mega-rich individuals with their own foundations to those who give £10 a month through direct debit. But although we are one of the most generous nations, we at NPC believe we could be doing more, better.

Our latest report, 10 innovations in global philanthropy, highlights trends and innovations that have the potential to really change philanthropy. It has been well received and to spread the word further this is the first in a series of three blogs highlighting some of our favourites.

First up: open data.

The UK is already advanced in opening up data, the government is releasing more data for public use and many foundations are starting to share grant data, led by the Big Lottery Fund
and initiatives like 360 Giving. But we could go further by replicating innovations like is run by the Foundation Center in the US and was established in 2011. It is an online portal for  the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for use by not only funders but also NGOs, policymakers and researchers. The portal combines 17 different data streams to produce an interactive mapping tool that allows funders to see information on who is funding which organisations and where. The tool can be used to search for funders working on particular WASH strategies, find transactional data on a particular area and look at countries’ socio-demographic data. It also maps funding from foundations against multilateral agency funding to present information in a global context.

The portal also provides case studies from funders and funder profiles that describe their different WASH strategies. There is also a toolkit and resources to monitor and evaluate WASH projects and a library of research into the sector.

The availability and use of open data in the non-profit sector is increasing and innovations like demonstrate how useful and important it can be. Accurate and timely data allows funders to learn quickly about a strategy or area in which they are interested. It encourages them to think strategically about their giving and to communicate and collaborate with others in the sector. The case studies allow funders to learn from each other, and the funder profiles bring more transparency to giving in WASH.

We believe that innovations that work to help the entire sector collect, share, analyse and understand data better can really help philanthropists make an impact in an increasingly complex world.

Read our spotlights on collaboration in giving and 100% impact investing too