We need more questions to unlock the value of data – #1 360Giving Data labs update

Mor Rubinstein reflects on her first eight weeks in post as our Data Labs and Learning Manager and makes a call for more questions. 

It has been eight weeks since I started my journey as the Data Labs and Learning Manager at 360Giving. Coming from the global open data world, I was excited to learn about the world of charities and grantmaking. What I have learned is that the charitable sector is facing similar issues to other sectors when it comes to the quality and use of open data. The good news is that this sector is eager to learn and to experiment – the perfect place to start a data lab!

The 360Giving Data Lab will focus on building capacity to use data for decision making in the charity sector, building tools that use 360Giving data as well as other data.

In the past weeks, I have been looking at the 360Giving Standard in depth. Our standard is the key to all our work and understanding it can help us to determine the potential uses of open data in the field. I have also spoken to many people across the charity world – from funders to grant seekers, from coders to policy experts.

One of the main challenges is that we still struggle in defining the questions we want to answer with data. Questions and learning are essential for creating new solutions. Coming up with good questions is not always easy though. There are many resources, like School of Data, that can help with creating good questions that are relevant to the sector we’re working in. What’s an example of a good question? Good question! How is the UK charitable sector funded? How does that compare to 10 years ago? Is funding going to areas identified as having the most need?

Over the next few months, we will be looking at what tools we want to create and how we want to develop our current products even further.

So, if you have a question that will help us think about what tools we should create to help unlock the value of 360Giving data, do get in touch. Email me at: mor.rubinstein@threesixtygiving.org

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When is a grant not a grant…and why should we care?

Julian Tait: Project Lead, Greater Manchester Pilot

During the course of the Greater Manchester pilot, we’ve been running workshops for a broad range of grant giving organisations, providing an opportunity to listen and understand how these organisations create and use data. It should come as no surprise that grant data is recorded in a myriad of different ways using a variety of methods.

Sometimes data is recorded for a statutory requirement and collected from different departments, and for others it exists on a small spreadsheet on a grant administrator’s computer.

These data are an interpretation of the act of grant giving often represented by the language of the individual or organisation. Within an individual organisation these varying interpretations are generally not a problem, but when data is aggregated across different organisations, difference of interpretation can be magnified with a potential loss of context and understanding.

When working on technology projects it is very easy to get drawn into a lexicon of language and methods that assume the world is orderly, precise and logically constructed, whereas the opposite is often true. The challenge with any data standard, not just 360Giving, is that it has to create a framework on which different interpretations of reality can be recorded with certainty. To do this we have to make sure that we have a shared understanding of what things mean.

Within the 360Giving workshops effort is spent on defining language so that people have confidence in using the standard. As individuals we assume that people using the same words mean the same thing but often this is not the case – words are context dependent and open to interpretation – which is great for poetry but not so much for data entry.

You would assume that a grant is a well understood term – ‘non-repayable money given from one organisation to another – usually non-profit or charitable organisation – for the support of activity set out in the terms of a grant’. This is significant especially when we look at the support local authorities give to voluntary, community sector organisations and how local authorities comply with the Local Government Transparency Code in recording grants.

According to the NCVO Civil Society Almanac 2017, Local Authorities are the biggest funders of the voluntary and community sector, spending £7.4bn on grants and contracted services according to 2013/14 figures. The nature of the funding mix is roughly 50:50 for grants and contracted services in 2004, trending to 80:20 by 2014, where the larger proportion for contracted services hints at a complex and evolving relationship. When is a grant not a grant? And when is a grant a contracted service?

The nature of grant funding is changing and often – like a procured or contracted service- it is competitive. There is a finite amount of money available and a successful grant application would need to meet the criteria of the grant funding scheme, going through a selection process that would assess its quality, likelihood of delivery and due diligence. There would in all likelihood be a grant funding contract or agreement that sets out what the money has been given for and how compliance with the agreement is evidenced. Within the agreement there might also be a claw-back clause if the agreement or contract is not met. To this extent the distinction between grants and contracted services is unclear.

The grant or contract dilemma is not just one that is unique to local government either. As more organisations take a multi-partner approach to grant giving, shared and agreed definitions need to be created for not only what constitutes a grant but for the activity taking place.

The 360Giving Standard allows a wealth of information and context to be recorded, and like all good standards it is evolving to accommodate the complexities and grey areas that grant givers face. Adopting a standard to record information in the first place starts organisations off on a journey that should not only make their data more useful for themselves, but also for future partners and organisations seeking funding.

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NCVO 2017 UK Civil Society Almanac: An overview

Jack Egan, Researcher at NCVO

NCVO launched the 16th edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac in May. For those not familiar with the Almanac, it is a website and publication that provides a comprehensive overview of the structure and economy of the UK voluntary sector. It does this by drawing upon data from various sources including charities’ accounts, administrative data and surveys. I will highlight some general findings below and then dive into some of the areas that are important for grant makers and foundations.

The UK voluntary sector is broad and diverse
The UK voluntary sector is made up of around 166,000 voluntary organisations, it employs a paid workforce of 853,000 people and benefits from 14.2 million regular volunteers. Voluntary organisations operate across many fields, with children and young people being the most common beneficiary group. Most organisations are small and operate locally, however the majority of the sector’s income is concentrated within larger organisations. The sector contributes £12.2bn to the economy, equivalent to 0.7% of UK GDP. We have produced a short video which acts as a great summary and can be viewed here.

The government funding landscape is changing
One of the most interesting findings of this year’s Almanac involved the split between funding from central and local government. In 2014/15, for the first time in a decade income from central government (£7.3bn) is higher than income from local government (£7.1bn). Declining income from local government is likely to affect smaller organisations who operate locally more than others and reiterates the important role grant makers have in terms funding these smaller organisations.

In 2014/15 the sector’s income from government was £15.3bn, representing 2% of total government spending. The government made grants worth £2.9bn to voluntary organisations, however the gap between this and government contracts remained large, with £12.4bn of income from government coming as contracts. At our launch event, Rosie Ferguson (CEO of Gingerbread) noted that commissioning and tendering process is becoming increasingly complex and more tailored to larger organisations. Furthermore, contracts often do not include space for evaluation or innovation which are crucial for capacity building, particularly in smaller charities.

Voluntary sector grant making continues to be important
The voluntary sector spent £6.4bn on grants in 2014/15, with over half of this spending going to other voluntary sector organisations (54%). International voluntary organisations received the largest share of these grants (38%), followed by social service organisations (16%). A relatively small number of grant makers continue to account for a large proportion of grants made. The top ten grant makers account for more than a quarter of all grants made (26%).

Diversifying income sources is key to sustainability
Charities are becoming less dependent on grants and contract income. More than half (56%) of the increase in the sector’s income over the last two years occurred in income from individuals. It is earned income from individuals driving that growth. It now amounts to £10.5bn, representing 51% of all income from individuals. Charging for services or selling new products gives charities extra an extra income source and helps to make them more sustainable in the medium to long term.

This is just a small selection of the information and data that the Almanac provides. Please visit data.ncvo.org.uk for more.

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360Giving showcased on global Digital Impact roadshow

Last month 360Giving took part in the Digital Impact global roadshow that has been to Asia, America, India, Australia and Europe bringing together stakeholders working on issues related to digital civil society. Here Lucy Bernholz ‘philanthropy wonk’ and director of The Digital Civil Society Lab, who is leading the Digital Impact series, reflects on the London event and how data and digital literacy can deliver democracy and peace…

 

The Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society is working with local hosts and partners in 10 cities around the globe this year to learn about the shape and challenges for civil society organizations these contexts. On June 16, in partnership with the Data Science Institute of Imperial College the event series came to London. Sixty participants from government, nonprofits, foundations and other funders, digital rights activists, scholars and data scientists spent a day articulating UK perspectives.

The agenda included discussions of digital dependencies – how can civil society organizations manage and govern the digital data and infrastructure on which each sector depends in ways that align with civil society’s values?

Recognizing that digital data are now a core resource for the sector is the first step – singular pilot projects and one-off attempts at sharing across sectors are no longer enough. Several UK examples of moving beyond the pilot were presented, including the justice data lab of NPC, the shared data platforms and tools being hosted by 360Giving, and efforts to imagine new forms of nonprofits, purpose-built for data, such as Civic Trust or Feedback Commons.

Participants from all sectors agreed that the state of digital literacy is too low. Few of us have understood the distinguishing characteristics of digital data or the political economy of digital infrastructure in ways that enable smart organizational or policy decisions. While not unique to the UK, these challenges are of national political interest at the moment, as became clear during discussions of the Conservative party’s manifesto and the role of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, set to come into effect in May 2018.

To the question ‘what is the potential prize for a digitally/data literate Civil Society’, I would say a functioning digital civil society equals functioning democracies and peace. Seriously. That’s what’s on the line.

More details of the London Digital Impact Event can be read here.

Prior to arriving in London the Digital Impact team had held a similar event in Brussels and then they moved on to Berlin. Documentation of the events, including Idea Boards, session videos, and individual interviews is being shared here.

 

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360Giving future secured to 2020 with Esmee Fairbairn Foundation Grant

We are delighted to have secured a £360,000 grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to continue our work encouraging more funders and statutory bodies to publish their data to the 360Giving Open Data Standard – a shared format that makes the data available in an open and comparable way. The grant is to cover core costs over the next three years and will allow us to launch a Challenge Fund later in the year welcoming ideas for new data tools and platforms.

“This multi-year grant that covers our core costs will allow us to be more opportunistic as we go forward with our mission to make sharing and use of open grants data a vital part of good grantmaking,” says 360Giving CEO Rachel Rank.

Gina Crane, Communications and Learning Manager of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which has been publishing its grantmaking data to the 360Giving Standard since February 2016, says:

“We believe in the potential of open data, and 360Giving data can form the basis of new tools that everyone – those seeking funding as well as those looking to make grants and investments – can use to understand and improve giving in the UK.”

As part of its funding, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation offers a range of additional support and resources to grantees, including training and advice, meeting room facilities and connections to free resources and to other grantees.

This is the second grant the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has provided to 360Giving. In 2016 they supported the development of the GrantNav platform, which lets users search, explore and download grants data published to the 360Giving Open Data Standard. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s data can be downloaded here.By making a wealth of grant information available in one place, GrantNav saves users time and money, allowing funders to be more informed, and those seeking funding to make more targeted applications.

Take a look for yourselves at the grants data being published using the 360Giving Standard: http://www.threesixtygiving.org/data/find-data/

Posted in News & Updates

Dive into data reveals government hit grantmaking bullseye with Community First Fund

The aim of the Cabinet Office’s £30m Community First Neighbourhood Matched Fund was to get small grants to the under-the-radar community projects working at the heart of the most deprived areas in the UK. Did it succeed?

Until this month, it would have been very hard to tell without extensive research where the grants went, how much was distributed, and to understand whether they ended up in the most deprived areas.

But now that the Cabinet Office has published the Community First Neighbourhood data to the 360Giving standard, it has taken me just a few hours to find out how much was distributed, where the grants went, what kinds of organisations received them and if they hit their target.

I’ve produced a short report which gives some basic stats on the grants made by the programme

It shows the largest grants were for £2,500, which was also the most frequently awarded amount – around one in five grants (3,278) was for this amount, with a further 1,171 grants made for £1,000. The average amount awarded was £1,500. Interestingly it tells us something about the life cycle of grantmaking. The grants given by the fund were generally very small: the average size of grant awarded grew slightly over the course of the fund, with a mean average of £1,274 in 2012 to £1,514 in 2014.

And by using Local Authority codes, I was able to link to data on the Index of Multiple Deprivation (sourced from the brilliant opendatacommunities site). This showed that the grants were targeted at the most deprived areas – around 35% of grants went to organisations working in the most deprived 10% of local authorities.

Then by matching to registered charity data, I brought in data on the charities that have received funding. It showed that nearly three-quarters of charities funded say they work with children and young people, and that economic and community development is another key area for them.

The value of the 360Giving Open Data Standard is that it allows for data comparison. How did the Community First Neighbourhood Matched Fund compare with the similar, though much bigger, Big Lottery Fund ‘Awards for All’ programme? Analysis showed there was a greater focus on deprived areas in Community First than Awards for All, which funded a higher number of registered charities. It was interesting to see where funding overlapped – around 500 organisations (1% of total recipients) received funding from both Community First and Awards for All.

The 360Giving Standard is built in a way that encourages making these links. By using common identifiers – “GSS” codes for local authorities and other areas, charity numbers for registered charities, company numbers – you remove the ambiguity that comes from just putting the name of the area or organisation, and it makes linking easy.

The Community First data wasn’t perfect in this regard. There were no charity numbers so I had to add them by matching with the charity register on names – however it’s a great step forward, particularly getting data from a central government grant fund.
This pretty quick analysis shows that data published to the 360Giving Open Data Standard can quickly be used to give real insight into a grant programme’s performance against its aims. It’s worth also taking a look at the official evaluation of the programme.

As well as the report, I’ve made the data analysis available on github as a jupyter notebook. This format allows you to see the python code I’m running, some commentary on what it’s doing, and the output of the code, such as charts, tables, etc.

It’s a great resource that will help with future research efforts – for example by building on previous work like this NCVO report on below the radar organisations.

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New Publisher: Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland inspires and supports giving that strengthens communities and enriches local life. It has built an endowment of nearly £75 million and has awarded more than £100 million in grants.

It has now published grants awarded between April 2015 and March 2016 – a total of 1284 worth £6,871,922 – using the 360Giving Open Data Standard, which are now available to explore in the GrantNav platform.

The Foundation’s Director of Partnerships Adam Lopardo says: “We aim to be transparent and show how resources are being used. We already publish a basic list of grants we make every year but expanding the amount of data and publishing it alongside others, we believe creates a powerful tool for other funders and grantees to use. It has also made us think about data we don’t capture, what we lose out by not capturing that data and we are looking at how we might capture it going forward.

“Publishing our data presents a learning opportunity. We already connect people who want to make a difference with organisations who can make a difference here in the North East, but in a world where it’s harder for local causes to be seen, heard and funded, we want to champion them as widely as possible. Through our partnerships programme we want to connect groups in the North East to relevant funders from across the UK and vice versa. Being part of and promoting 360Giving and the GrantNav tool helps us see who else is supporting the sector in the North East and they can see us.

“It helps grantees find and better understand funders who might support their work. Funders in turn can find out who else has funded the groups who are making applications to them. Hopefully the result will be more successful applications from groups and more informed grantmaking by us and other funders.

I found the process to be absolutely fantastic and 360Giving were very patient considering many of the questions I asked were actually available on the 360Giving guidance! It means that when we publish the next set of data it should be very simple to do.”

Posted in News & Updates

New Publisher: Barrow Cadbury Trust

Committed to structural and long-term catalytic social change, Barrow Cadbury Trust works in the areas of criminal justice, migration, and economic justice.

It grants in excess of £3m a year and has now published grant-making data going back to April 2012 to the 360Giving Open Data Standard. This adds 397 grants worth £13,504,355 to the dataset.

Head of Programmes Debbie Pippard says: “We decided to publish to the 360Giving Standard as we strongly believe in transparency and making our data as accessible as possible for people. We believe in the potential of Big Data and want to be a part of that and we encourage others to join us.

“360Giving were very helpful and knowledgeable. Our data was in pretty good shape and with a bit of tidying we were able to publish almost everything immediately. But you don’t have to bite off everything in one go. You can publish in stages. Now our data is standardised we will be able to publish updates at the push of a button.”

Visit Barrow Cadbury Trust website to access their data, or explore their grants in GrantNav.

Posted in News & Updates

360Giving named as one of UK’s most transformative digital organisations

We are delighted to have been recognised as one of the UK’s most transformative digital organisations having been named among 10 ‘Digital Charities of the Year’ in the 2017 Digital Leaders 100 (DL100) List.

The global initiative promotes effective, long-term digital transformation across government and industries.

The independent list recognises 100 people and organisations across the UK who are leading the way in digital transformation in all sectors. Previously, the list has featured industry names such as Martha Lane-Fox, Mike Bracken, Liam Maxwell, Kevin Cunnington and Eileen Burbidge.

The 100 finalists that make up the list will now compete for the public vote in one of 10 categories. You can help us get to the top of the Digital Charity of the Year list by voting for us at digileaders100.com.

This year’s list is made up of individuals and organisations, with 50 from the private sector, 29 from the public sector and 20 from the nonprofit sector.

The DL100 list has a 50/50 gender split, recognising the diversity in digital transformation roles and the leading women across the industry. 360Giving was founded by Fran Perrin who saw the massive potential in creating a digital place where grantmakers and seekers can increase their knowledge of where grants go in the UK and thereby improve the effectiveness of the sector.

Lord Francis Maude of Horsham, Chair of Digital Leaders, said: “The Digital Leaders 100 list 2017 is once again highlighting the progress that has been made in digitally transforming the UK across all sectors. Our Digital Leaders community have pulled out all the stops to let us know about the hidden heroes, quietly getting on with the UK’s digital transformation without themselves seeking recognition. It’s great to see such a strong list from outside London this year reflecting our own National programme and the growing importance that digital transformation has in organisations irrespective of size or sector.”

Robin Knowles, CEO of Digital Leaders, added: “This is the annual list membership that money can’t buy. A truly independent list nominated by our growing community and shortlisted by 10 independent judges before a public vote puts them into order.

Judges for the DL100 shortlist include, Lord Maude of Horsham, Chris Yiu, Director of Uber, Rachel Neaman, CEO of Corsham Institute, and Maggie Philbin, CEO of Teentech.

The final list order and category winners will be announced at the DL100 Awards Dinner at St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel on 22 June 2017.

Remember to vote for us at: http://www.digileaders100.com/#categories – voting closes at 12 noon on Friday 9th June 2017.

Posted in News & Updates

A Question of Geography…

How many times have you said “I wish we knew who was funding what in our area?”

Maybe you’ve even been that brave volunteer who offered to try and pull the data together from whatever other group members could supply – and then regretted it. At 360Giving, one of the many reasons we are passionate about encouraging charities to publish their grant-making data to our standard is because it will make that process a lot simpler.

There are now 33 funders publishing data– from The Big Lottery with 163,000 grants to One Manchester with 66. To show people what you can do with all that information we built GrantNav, just one tool that helps people uncover the stories the data can tell. This month, we caught up with funding and capacity building officers who’ve been exploring how that works.

Dipali Chandra from Charitable Trusts West Midlands, contacted the office for help with using the data in GrantNav to look at grants being awarded at ward level. After explaining some of the inner workings of the tool, we asked her what being able to access the data meant for her work. “It’s about having the conversations we’ve never been able to have before” Dipali said. “we literally used to say that we can’t discuss these questions because we don’t know anything”.

Of course, there are still limitations – GrantNav’s filtering function uses the grant recipients’ address to locate the funding, rather than the project location and many funders haven’t included this kind of information in their data yet. But with a GrantNav data report including volume funders like The Big Lottery, BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief as a starting point, the much-needed conversations were launched.

Dipali also put us in touch with Austin Rodriguez, from the Neighbourhood Development and Support Unit at Birmingham City Council. Austin describes himself as a self-taught spreadsheet wrangler. He pulled data from 360Giving data together with other information supplied directly by funders and compared it with local public sector data profiling the population and needs. From this he was able to put together a report to advise the Partners Investing in Neighbourhoods & Communities group on how they were doing at getting funding into some of the most deprived wards in Birmingham.

Graph showing amount of grant funding by ward created by Austin Rodriguez, Birmingham City Council

Austin was excited by the data because it helped him to question assumptions and provide insights about how well joined up things are (or aren’t). The myth that grants were going to only the usual suspects was debunked by the numbers (101 grants, 81 recipients). Then the data supported a strong correlation between the spread of grants across different wards, and the number of established community organisations in those wards. It also highlighted areas of significant underinvestment, compared to need and assets, as well as insights about dependency on grants.

These are just the first reports we’ve had back in to the office about how data is being used in the capacity building and fundraising sector to support decision making and learning and we’re looking forward to hearing more over the next few months.

Graph showing average grant size by ward created by Austin Rodriguez, Birmingham City Council

If these stories intrigue you, what can you do?

If you’re a bit of a data dabbler – no need to be an expert – you might like to look at our top tips for working with 360Giving Standard data and geography so you can explore some patterns and trends emerging in your area.

Posted in Blog