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Where do grants go? – Working with geography in the 360Giving Data Standard

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In this blog we share some of the issues that we have been exploring around geography and location data, and what we are planning to do next to move things forward.

People want to know where funding is going in the UK, but there are currently some challenges in how location data is handled in the 360Giving Data Standard and tools, and the completeness and consistency in the data shared – and this sometimes creates a skewed picture. 

We ran up against this issue ourselves when we carried out data analysis of UK Covid relief and recovery grants, where in our published report, we explained why we couldn’t provide geographical analysis.

A ‘skewed understanding’

We share a map of grants published in the 360Giving Data Standard in our 360Insights tool for visualising grants data – it was our most requested feature. However, we also know that this can create a skewed understanding of where grants are going. For example, there is a significant issue that we call the ‘headquarters effect’ – where funding appears to disproportionately go to large cities (especially London). This is because many large national or regional charities’ head offices are based in city centres. It doesn’t reflect where a grant has been received by an organisation for delivery in a wider area or even online.

Map of grants published in the 360Giving Data Standard in 360Insights.

What have we been doing to address the issues?

Last autumn, 360Giving launched a project –  including a user working group – to explore issues and opportunities around location data. We started by doing a deep-dive into the data, and ran a survey to get the perspectives of funders and users of 360Giving data to identify their goals and challenges when working with location data. The findings of the survey are summarised in our report, which you can access below.

We also commissioned independent research to get an expert view on the usefulness of the location data shared by funders using the 360Giving Data Standard. The key test used to evaluate the data from a user perspective and the recommendations from the research are described in the report.

Possible solutions

Several possible solutions to the issues with location data in the 360Giving Data Standard emerged from the survey and research, and we explored these in three facilitated discussions with funders who had filled in the survey. These discussions explored how funders work with location data, their goals and challenges, and participants brought their experience and knowledge to highlight some of the benefits and drawbacks of the solutions under consideration.

Where we are now, and what we know so far

We’re now able to share our report, which provides more information on the findings of the survey, research and discussions. It also includes detail on solutions that weren’t taken forward and why not, as well as setting out the three ways in which we’re tackling the issues surfaced as part of this project. You can read the report in full here.

Next steps

We’ve identified three next steps to make data about the location of grants more useful: 

  1. Provide more and better guidance to help publishers share useful data about grant locations, enabling people accessing the data to build a more accurate picture of the funding landscape. You can access the new 360Giving guide to location data here, as part of our Complete Guide to Publishing. 
  2. Improve the explanations in 360Giving tools about the different types of location data available and how these are used. This will help to provide better support for data users.
  3. Consult on the proposed changes to the 360Giving Data Standard itself (coming soon). We’ll share this consultation shortly, and we’d love to hear your views… So make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter so you’re the first to know when it’s available!

Update (11/05): 360Giving’s consultation on geography is now closed. Thanks to all who provided their feedback and insights.