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COVID19: Funders are innovating in unprecedented ways



This Giving Tuesday, we celebrate how the voluntary sector is finding new ways to collaborate and innovate to target their support, and enable the best use of limited resources in such challenging times. Open data’s value has never been greater for the public good

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This Giving Tuesday, we are invited to come together to “recognise, celebrate and give thanks for the incredible outpouring of compassion we have witnessed during this crisis”.

Communities and sectors across the UK are having to adapt and respond to the enormous, evolving challenges brought about by coronavirus. The voluntary sector is – and will continue to be – crucial in delivering vital services and meeting community needs.

On top of emergency grants – many of which were made quickly by trusts and foundations in response to the crisis – funders are stepping up by embracing innovative ways to collaborate, and use data to inform decisions and enable the best use of resources.

Unprecedented sector collaboration

At 360Giving, our vision is for grantmaking in the UK to be more informed, effective and strategic. This feels more relevant now than ever.

We are continuing to help funders to publish their grants data openly in the 360Giving Data Standard. Since long before the coronavirus crisis began, leading funders have been making their grants data open to help give us all a fuller picture of grantmaking in the UK.

The crisis has prompted even more of this collaborative effort, with more funders than ever publishing their grants data openly and recognising the need to frequently update the data they publish.

To make it easy to access COVID19-related grants data, we have developed the COVID19 Grants Tracker. This pulls and visualises data published by funders about their grants made in response to the crisis, and is updated daily.

It’s been wonderful to hear funders emphasise their commitment to publishing their grants data openly and working together in response to the crisis.

“All our grants will be published to 360Giving and we recommend using the COVID19 tracker, as we are, to coordinate support with other funders,” Esmée Fairbairn Foundation CEO Caroline Mason said in a recent blogpost.

“This is just one way we can work together and, from now on, working together needs to become the new normal. We all want to make an impact, and what we do – or don’t do – now could make more of a difference than ever before.”

Other funders and sector bodies have expressed similar sentiments including Tudor Trust, Devon Community Foundation, County Durham Community Foundation, Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, The Bishop Radford Trust, and London Funders.

“Leading funders are showing what can be done by publishing to 360Giving and creatively using that data to inform their work,” Nesta’s Head of New Operating Models and 360Giving trustee Alice Casey says. “It is becoming ever clearer that COVID19 is a longer term challenge. Using open funding data is vital to help donors to be more strategic and work together to improve community resilience beyond the crisis point for a better future response.”

The value of the data lies in its use

The value of open grants data comes as funders use it to inform their decisions.

By using the data to see who else is funding the same charities, funders collaborate better with each other and coordinate their support, as Caroline Mason said.

In updating their data regularly – especially if they’ve made changes to what their grants fund – funders can help us all understand how projects and organisations are being affected by the crisis, and the sorts of changes being made in response. We have set out guidance for how to do this in a recent technical blog.

By finding out which areas are going underfunded, funders can target their grants to those most in need. A great example of this comes from Somerset Community Foundation, who has mapped its grants against the British Red Cross COVID19 vulnerabilities index, which maps clinical vulnerability, demographic vulnerability, social vulnerability, and health inequalities. “It helps us to think about where our funds might be needed the most,” says SCF. The data’s value grows even further when it’s combined like this with other datasets.

More data innovations from the sector

The voluntary sector’s growing commitment to publishing and using open grants data is one of many data innovations coming from the sector in response to the crisis.

To help charities and funders to determine which people and places need extra support now, and which might need support as the crisis develops, NPC have published data – using accessible table formats – on the location of charities and COVID19 risk factors. NPC plans to add more data from funders, charities and social enterprises (get in touch with them if you can help).

More great data innovations coming from the sector – as helpfully gathered by NPC’s senior consultant Michelle Man – include a collaborative document created by social policy researcher Ben Geiger to capture population-level data sources on social impact, eg employment, income, poverty and mental health.

Digital inclusion organisation Citizens Online has published a digital exclusion risk map of England, to help understand community needs in the coronavirus pandemic. They have based it on digital engagement with 6,691 GP surgeries in England, and the number of people aged 65+ on GP registers.

We stand by to help

At 360Giving, we will continue to help funders publish open grants data, and help people – including those funders – to use it to help improve charitable giving.

For anyone who wants help using open data on COVID19 grants, we run free office hours to give you one-to-one guidance. Find out more and book here.