Below the Radar – NCVO

The need for grant data

In 2014, NCVO (the National Council for Voluntary Organisations) responded to a call from Nesta’s Data for Good initiative, which aimed to highlight projects that captured, shared and analysed data in new ways to demonstrate how it can transform how charities work.

NCVO suggested ‘Below the Radar’, a research study to identify and quantify charities and voluntary organisations that aren’t on any current databases or registers, shining a light on the sectors and communities they serve. Identifying these organisations is important as they have a vital role in supporting local communities and delivering essential services.

The data solution

The NCVO team used grant data from 360Giving for their research. The data showed the grantees receiving funds from a number of established grantmakers, which NCVO was able to cross-reference with existing registers. This pinpointed the charities that were working below the radar: receiving grants and delivering services but doing so with no visibility outside of their local communities. NCVO was then able to look into the activities of these charities, and identify which sectors they were operating in, and what functions they were providing.

David Kane, Senior Research Officer at NCVO, said:

“By using data shared by grantmakers as part of the 360Giving initiative, we were able to get a view of organisations that aren’t covered by our usual sources of data. These ‘below the radar’ organisations are important parts of their communities but by their very nature they are difficult to study, and particularly to get quantitative data on. Without grantmakers sharing their data we would not have been able to find these organisations.”

The outcome

NCVO’s study identified approximately 33,000 organisations actively delivering services below the radar. The data also revealed that many of these organisations had a cultural, recreational or social services focus, and that they were also disproportionately represented when compared to registered charities in the same sector, suggesting they have a key role in service delivery.

In terms of geography, the North West, North East and East Midlands have a greater proportion of below the radar organisations when compared to registered charities, perhaps because these organisations are more active in areas where charities are less common.

NCVO is building on their study by working with the Third Sector Research Centre on an ESRC-funded “Civil Society Data Partnership” project. This brings together data from 360Giving with spending data from local authorities and other government bodies. The analysis will be used to answer questions about the distribution of funding across the UK.