Visualising media grants

Katherine Duerden photoThe Foundation Center and Media Impact Funders have launched a new tool for visualising media grants: It plots foundations and grantees onto a global map, and enables reporting on the flow of funds to support a wide range of media and technology initiatives.

The tool features data on grants dating back to 2009 and includes extensive detail about all aspects of the funding. Alongside the locations of funder, recipient and the type of media initiative being supported, it’s possible to filter by beneficiary group, type of funder and recipient organisation and whether the grant was given for capacity or network building, research or advocacy, or ongoing costs, etc. Even if you don’t have a special interest in civil society media initiatives, it is easy to use the interface to start drilling down into the detail and see the potential of the tool, and how grants data can provide real insights into a subject area, region or funder network. The connections between funders and recipient organisations are particularly well visualised through its ‘constellations’ feature which cleverly show the areas of overlap between funders, making it easy to see complex interconnections.

The focus is inevitably on funding from US foundations as the data draws on the US-based Foundation Center database of grants reported directly by foundations or collected from their websites and other public sources. This dataset has been built over decades and has involved scraping from PDFs – a process that requires painstaking manual cleaning and coding. Not all the information is for US funders though, with details of foundations around the world, including 37 UK foundations, some of whom are publishing to the open data standard developed by 360Giving. As more UK grantmakers publish their grants to the 360Giving standard, it will become even easier to develop tools to make sense of the “who, where, what and why” of the funding ecology.

We know that making it easy to access and explore grants data is key to unlocking the usefulness of the information and the Media Mapping tool is a great example of what’s possible. That is why alongside supporting grantmakers to publish their grants information in an open, comparable format, we’re also developing GrantNav, an online platform that enables users to see a more comprehensive picture of UK grantmaking, with the ability to search by sector, funder or region. GrantNav is currently in development and undergoing extensive user testing to ensure it will be useful to a wide audience.

Because 360Giving data is published under an open license, there is potential for anyone to access and use it for their own purposes, so we hope to see more searchable platforms, maps and visualisations developed as the dataset improves.

A key part of GrantNav’s development has been gathering user feedback, to make sure it’s as useful as possible. Based on this feedback, we’ve recently added a ‘download data’ option to the latest version, as this was highlighted as a key requirement. The Foundation Maps for Media Funding tool has its own export function, although we found it fiddly to use, sometimes needing several downloads to build a useful report – our only criticism of this otherwise impressive and useful tool. We hope the Foundation Center will continue to develop its visualisations of grants data, and look forward to seeing UK grants published to the 360Giving standard appearing in such tools in future.

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