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Putting local charities on the map

By Leigh Dodds, Mark Owen

Bath: Hacked is a volunteer-led open data project serving the community of Bath & North East Somerset. We run a data store to collect and share local data, and work with local organisations, including the council, to help explore the benefits of open data for our community. We host hackdays, run training sessions and try to build interesting and useful things using local open data.

A lot of the work we’ve done this year has involved making maps. Maps are great ways to visualise data. Taking data locked up in spreadsheets and putting it on an interactive map creates a whole new perspective.

To showcase some of our mapping work we’ve been running a “Data Advent” again this December. We’ve been sharing a new or interesting data-driven map every day.

We often find that to understand our local area we need data from multiple sources. No single organisation has a complete picture. GrantNav does an excellent job of bringing together information on grants that have been awarded around the country.

So we decided to explore whether we could map the data from GrantNav for Bath & North East Somerset.

BathHacked map

Map of grants awarded to Bath and North East Somerset

Downloading the CSV file from GrantNav showed that the data included the name of the ward in which the project was funded. This was fantastic as that meant that we could build a map showing the level of grant funding awarded within each of the wards in our area.

Our resident mapping expert, Mark Owen did the work to build the map. The first step was to combine the GrantNav data to an open dataset of our ward boundaries, using a desktop tool called QGIS. This gave us a geographic area for each grant and not just a ward name. We then used a tool called Carto to actually create the map. It’s free to use for open data and it can very quickly produce some great interactive maps.

To add a bit of flair, Mark also used some mapping wizardry to assign a geographic location for each project. The points are randomly assigned within a ward and so don’t reflect the actual locations of the projects or grantees. That information isn’t included in the raw data available via GrantNav, which makes sense for privacy reasons. But adding the points helped give a flavour of the number and type of projects running in each ward.

We’re really pleased with the final result.

It’s the first time a map of this type has been built for the local area and it gives a great overview of the range of great local charities and projects that have had funding. We look forward to updating this as new data from GrantNav becomes available.

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Philanthropists and Funders: Why spending out and closing down needn’t mean fading away

Edafe Onerhime, Open Data Services CooperativeFoundations, charities and trusts close. This is a reality for charitable organisations and philanthropists who’ve met their goals, merged or decided to spend out their funds for any number of reasons.

Take the Northern Rock Foundation. An independent grantmaking charity, it aimed to improve quality of life in the North East of England and Cumbria. And it did, awarding £225 million in 4,400 grants between 1998 and 2014. In it’s last year, the foundation awarded £10.3 million in the form of six large awards to improve the lives of children and young people and to support voluntary organisations.

On 25th April 2016, the foundation closed.

NCVO Almanac chart of merging and closing charities

Source: NCVO, Charity Commission

Like any number of large charities closing or merging, the Northern Rock Foundation had a dilemma: How could they keep the history of the good they’d done alive even after they were gone? They looked at preserving their history through their website (the story of Northern Rock Foundation) and donating their reports to the Tyne and Wear archives, keeping the information in the public domain.

Around that time, Fran Perrin of Indigo Trust was championing a way to use data about grantmaking to support decision-making and learning across the charitable giving sector. This lead to the establishment of 360Giving. The Northern Rock Foundation decided that publishing their grantmaking data to the 360Giving Standard would not just preserve their legacy, but it would keep the information alive and useful for charities, policy makers, researchers and anyone interested in charitable giving in the UK.

So, if your organisation is winding up, what do you need to consider if you want to preserve the organisation’s funding legacy? Here are three things to think about:

1. A commitment to preservation and transparency in your organisation.
360Giving may be about grantmaking data, but all projects involve and affect people, so buy-in is key to ensure your preservation project is supported and completed before winding up.

2. A good knowledge of your grantmaking data.
As your organisation is winding up, you won’t be available to answer questions about your funding. We recommend you publish good data that is useful to the charitable sector because it is usable, which means it will be used. The 360Giving team can work with you to explore what it means to publish to the 360Giving Standard and how to get there from where you are now. This means your legacy of funding will be accurate (as you control how it is presented) and can tell your story about your organisation’s funding.

3. A commitment to openness.
All data published to the 360Giving Standard is open data. That means before you wind up, you agree on an open data license. The license tells anyone wanting to use your data that 1) it is reusable, and 2) if they need to credit your organisation (or not) wherever it’s used.

360Giving primarily focuses on UK grantmaking, but any organisation can publish its grants data to the 360Giving Standard and anyone can access and use the data internationally – all they need is access to the internet. So you can get in touch with our support team no matter where in the world you are to get the ball rolling. We don’t charge a fee as all our support is funded through grants that we receive.

Perhaps you’d like to see some examples of how we preserved Northern Rock Foundation’s legacy in data? You can download the Northern Rock Foundation grantmaking file, view the Northern Rock Foundation license page or the Northern Rock Foundation publisher page on GrantNav.

Curious about the Standard? Take a look at these frequently asked questions.

Spending out and closing down happens, fading away doesn’t have to.

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The need for good data, not just more data

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for 360Giving, with three different but complementary events emphasising the need for good quality funding data.

Firstly, there was the launch of the excellent Giving Trends report, co-written by ACF and CASS. As a newbie to the world of philanthropy, Giving Trends is my go-to report for learning about who’s funding what and how much they’re giving. It’s great to see this kind of thorough research coming out of the sector, although the report’s lead author highlighted the need for transparency and the difficulties of getting the information required to conduct her analysis – something that we hope will become easier as more organisations publish to the 360Giving Standard.

This year’s report is slightly different as it brings together research data on the top independent, family and corporate foundations. This was the right decision, as together, these 300 organisations represent 90% of all giving by value of the 10,000+ independent foundations in the UK. The main takeaway for me: Foundation spending continues to grow, reaching a record £2.7bn and matching government grants to the voluntary sector. This is despite an overall fall in income, showing ongoing commitment to charitable giving in times of austerity. But wouldn’t it be great if we could see these government and charitable grants side by side? Which brings me neatly to the second event – the launch of GrantNav.

GrantNav launch event 30 September 2016

GrantNav launch event

GrantNav launch event 30 September 2016

Photographs by Mike Massaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

We  launched GrantNav at the end last month. It was our first big public event and we were delighted by the number of people who came and told us what they liked about GrantNav; what else they’d like to be able to do with it; and that they were going to publish their data to the 360Giving Standard so they could be included too.

It’s hard to believe, but until we launched GrantNav, it wasn’t possible to get open, comparable information on UK grantmaking. Huge thanks to the 27 organisations that published their data in advance of the launch – there would be no point building platforms like this if we didn’t have data to go into it, so all credit to them for leading the way. We look forward to more organisations joining them in the coming months so watch this space. And in the meantime, have a play and tell us what you think: grantnav@threesixtygiving.org

And the third event? That was the 2016 International Open Data Conference. For all you open data advocates out there, Madrid was the place to be. We shared ideas on how to join up open data standards; launched a new project looking at how to accurately identify organisations; and we talked about the dangers of over-claiming on open data (it’s not going to end poverty apparently). But we also saw great examples of real-life problems open data has helped to fix. This has inspired us to start looking at how we use the grants data being made available. So, if you’re a grantmaker working in Scotland or Manchester, come and speak with us as we’d love to know what issues you’re struggling with and to test out how 360 data might help with the solution.

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Visualising media grants

Katherine Duerden photoThe Foundation Center and Media Impact Funders have launched a new tool for visualising media grants: http://maps.foundationcenter.org/?acct=media. 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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Opening up Lloyds Bank Foundation – why we’ve published open grants data and what we plan to do next

Alex van VlietEarlier this month the Lloyds Bank Foundation published data from over 4,000 grants made between 2010 and 2015 in line with 360Giving’s open data standard. It’s available as a spreadsheet to download from our website. In doing so, we have joined a growing band of grantmakers in the UK who are opening up their datasets for others to use.

Historically, the Foundation published its grantmaking data every six months in PDF reports, split by government office region. Transparent, yes, but not reusable – or, I suspect, terribly useful to our grantees, applicants or other stakeholders across the sector. When I joined the Foundation last year as the organisation’s first Research and Data Analyst, using an external data standard seemed the natural approach to improving the transparency of our giving.

Although our recent strategy has seen us make fewer, larger grants, we still have active grants with almost 1,000 charities. Our hope is that by pooling grantmaking data from our organisation with that of other major grantmakers, we can begin to use the intelligence generated to make more intelligent decisions about who and how to fund. For example, 360Giving data could be used to identify ‘cold spots’ – areas of high deprivation where funders have made relatively few grants. Equally, it could facilitate the better sharing of information between funders on geographical areas or sectors where they have expertise.

360Giving is opening up grantmaking data at a time when grants have lost momentum as a funding approach across the sector. According to figures from the NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac, the proportion of government funding for charities given as a grant has fallen by over 60% since 2004. The dynamics of government funding have shifted radically towards competitive commissioning and contract models.

The Foundation is particularly concerned with how these changes have affected small and medium-sized charities – in our main funding programmes, we only fund charities with an income between £25,000 and £1m.

Evidence from a recent literature review by IPPR North suggests that the shift to contracts has failed to create a level playing field for small and medium-sized charities, exacerbating their vulnerability. Large organisations, including some large charities, are dominating the market for providing public services, to the detriment of small and medium-sized charities and the individuals they reach.

In response, the Lloyds Bank Foundation is proud to be a founding partner of Grants for Good, a new campaign calling for a halt to the dangerous decline in grant funding by public bodies to charities and community groups. Grants for Good is run by Directory for Social Change, Charity Finance Group, Children England, NAVCA and the Foundation. We want to use our networks to gather examples of effective grantmaking and build a case for commissioners to choose grants instead of contracts where a responsive local service is needed.

By opening up our grantmaking data through 360Giving, we hope that we can support a stronger evidence base for the value of grants. We also want to encourage other independent funders to publish their data, and to speak up for grants more widely.

As Paul Streets, our Chief Executive, said: “As an independent grantmaker we know that grants are a highly effective way of funding, allowing us to choose quality but supporting those we fund to run their services to best meet need. In contrast, contracts have high transaction costs and force organisations into prescriptive ways of delivering, often focused on meeting tick-box targets over real outcomes… We [want] to make the case to central and local government that good grantmaking does work and we need more not less of it.”

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Setting solid foundations for social impact

Last week we had the pleasure of presenting on the 360Giving project for an Open Data Institute Friday Lunchtime Lecture. Alice Casey and Tim Davies shared a history of the project, and the vision of supporting funders to make better decisions and seek greater impact through open sharing of grantmaking data. You can find a recording of the talk via the ODI website, and find the slides below.

As we were presenting, an issue of the GovLab Digest dropped into our inbox, pointing to initial findings from a set of case studies on Open Data Impact. Interestingly, the findings link to a number of points we explored in the lecture. GovLab find that:

  • “Open data projects are most successful when they are built not from the efforts of single organizations or government agencies, but when they emerge from partnerships across sectors (and even borders)”.360Giving is a collaboration, bringing together donors from across the philanthropy sector, along with data users and technical partners to provide core support and build innovative tools. The new indepedent 360Giving non-profit is not intended to become a single organization ‘owning’ the project, but has instead been established to harness, catalyse and take forward the energy from the different partners in the project.
  • “Several of the projects we have seen have emerged on the back of what we might think of as an open data public infrastructure – i.e., the technical backend and organizational processes necessary to enable the regular release of potentially impactful data to the public.”.360Giving is more than a data standards. Through our partnership with Open Data Services Co-operative, 360Giving is building an open data infrastructure for philanthropic data, providing the support that funders need to get their data published, and the core tools to make that data easy to use.
  • “Clear open data policies, including well-defined performance metrics, are also essential; policymakers and political leaders have an important role in creating an enabling (yet flexible) legal environment that includes mechanisms for project assessments and accountability, as well as providing the type of high-level political buy-in that can empower practitioners to work with open data.”We’re working with leaders of trusts and foundations, rather than political leaders – but the point GovLab make is key: to suceed we need to secure leadership commitment to opening up – and then to translate that into practical action to open up data. We’re working hard on improving how we manage the process of holistic support for organisations to publish and use 360Giving data.We’re also working to create an environment in which 360Giving is the platform, but not the product. Through our emerging ‘Labs’ programme, we want others to have the confidence and catalytic support they need to build upon 360Giving data, and to create tools and services that support the sector.
  • “We have also seen that the most successful open data projects tend to be those that target a well-defined problem or issue. In other words, projects with maximum impact often meet a genuine citizen need.”360Giving is addressing clear needs of funders to understand better how to use their resources for social impact. This ultimately brings benefits to citizens.

It’s encouraging to see that 360Giving is heading down the right track in these areas. However, GovLab also higlight some of the challenges that projects face, and we’re working hard to avoid these – making sure we help funders to think early about privacy and security issues, and being responsive to feedback, ready to iterate and develop our plans based on regular reflection and learning.

As GovLab note, “Although open data projects are often “hackable” and cheap to get off the ground, the most successful do require investments – of time and money – after their launch”. We’re moving from the ‘hackable’ launch stage of 360Giving, to scale up over the coming year. We hope you will be coming on the journey with us.

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Open Data : From audience to participant.

360Giving is a non-profit data collaborative. Read more on our about page.

At 360Giving we help funding bodies and charities to publish and better understand the value of open data. Much of what we have been doing has therefore been around raising awareness of the project among different groups ; building an interest among the varied audiences for the idea.

360Giving has many angles which are exciting to different people for different reasons. Mostly it is about helping them do new things that have not been possible before. For example, last week, speaking to a group of regional foundations and trusts the conversation focused on their interest in collaborating on impact and evaluation; when speaking with charities earlier this month, they wanted to better understand how to improve funding applications and find collaborators on programme design, and later on today, I expect that Opentech 2015 attendees will have interest in the way the data itself is structured and converted.

It is a promising sign for our work at 360Giving that we are exciting and engaging a range of audiences because it means that the project sits at an intersection between overlapping areas of interest. This is usually a good sign that you are on to something new and useful! Realising the value of open data for the charity and voluntary sector is an emerging area, and one where we hope that a non-profit collaboration like 360Giving can make a real difference. This means bringing together the best open technology and ways of working; alongside funding bodies’ and charities’ desire to understand and make more of their own data for the people they wish to benefit.

The success of the work depends entirely upon  audiences and interested audiences becoming imaginative and enthusiastic participants. A number of those from the initial audience have over time become participants, whether publishing open data, developing tools for analysis of the data, or as users of the tools. We hope that many more will become collaborators in the future.

I have shared just a few of the questions that people have been asking us below to show the variety of interest:

  • How can foundations and trusts make better use of the data they already gather and require from their grantees?
  • In what ways can we more easily combine funding data with other data sources (such as indices of deprivation or local authority spending) to add context to decision making?
  • How can those seeking funds and developing new charitable and voluntary programmes use data tools to understand how to best shape their work with others?
  • How can we make it technically very easy for publishers to structure their data using simple spreadsheets, and for developers to easily get the JSON formats they require to make analysis tools?

These are just a few questions that we have seen coming up as themes of interest and we are at the beginning of a journey towards answering them. I expect there will be many more! We hope that we’ll be able to work with many of you reading this as participants and collaborators to develop answers and practical solutions together.

If you are interested in finding out more about 360Giving contact alice.casey [at] nesta.org.uk or say hello on twitter @cased.

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Activity report – pipeline, firming up the 360giving data model and a registry

It’s been a while since I wrote here – we have been very busy working with grant makers to help foundations publish to the 360 data standard and, as part of that process understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the technical bits.  We’ve done a lot, mainly behind the scenes and there’s still lots to do.  It’s been great to receive such a strongly positive response as we talk to people about 360giving.

We have strengthened our core team with generous support from NESTA both in cash and kind, Indigo Trust and in kind from Dulverton.  This has allowed us to anchor the project securely and put a proper structure around it.

We now have a good pipeline of of grant makers publishing to the 360 standard, people who are preparing to do so and people who are interested.  We have 14 grant makers actively publishing in the 360 standard, varying from small family foundations to major charitable institutions.  One group of foundations is publishing grants in near real time from their in house database.  And we have roughly the same amount again in the pipeline.

Now we have grant makers publishing, we need somewhere to put the links to the data being published – known as a registry. We have engaged Practical Participation to map out a path to deliver a registry, which we shall populate and launch shortly, hopefully in early March.  When we do that we shall write more about the pipeline.

The early work with grant makers has thrown up some fascinating issues with the bare bones technical standard.  Practical Participation is also working on this to produce a more robust data model.  You can follow some of the work on the registry and data standard here.

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GrantNav beta – powered by 360giving data

Using 360giving standardised data we have worked with developers Aptivate to produce a grant navigator – GrantNav – that allows searching, charting and mapping of UK grant data from a dozen or more major grant makers.

360giving is about helping people publish data – we provide support, advice and a data standard that enables data to be compared.  If you can use a spreadsheet, you can publish to 360giving.  Having a common standard allows data from different grant makers to be compared, contrasted, searched and analysed far more easily.  It’s a bit like people speaking in the same language and using the same alphabets and numbering systems – you can understand a lot more.

Now we have lots of 360giving-standardised data (see our Summer 2014 update) people can build things with it and start to use the data to tell stories.  As part of our testing of 360giving, we thought we would get the ball rolling with a simple 360-powered demonstrator, GrantNav.

We began by using the rudimentary grant data published by the lottery distributors and some statutory grant makers, often in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.  The technology for development NGO Aptivate converted this data to the 360giving standard we found some grant maker’s data online, which we also converted and we began to gather more comprehensive data published to the 360standard by early-adopting private grant makers.

Aptivate then worked with us to create a prototype searchable database of about 240,000 grants worth some £16 billion over 20 years from over a dozen grant makers.  The GrantNav beta also allows comparative charts to be drawn of grants over time.  Where grant makers have provided good location data, Aptivate have also mapped the grants.

GrantNav is deliberately rough and ready – we want 360giving to be about the publishing of data for others to analyse, visualise or search (we are talking to researchers and sector analysts all the time). GrantNav is also a ‘beta’ – which means it is testing and development, will contain errors and things will go wrong – and we are adding new data as it arises.  But we thought we would set the ball rolling and see if this database woudl help people make better grants.  And what the wealth of data talent in and around the sector can come up with using the data we have standardised.

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360giving – summer update 2014

With our 360 partners NESTA, BIG Lottery, Nominet Trust and Practical Participation and we have been working quietly with leading grant makers, grant recipients and technologists for the last few months on publication of data to the 360giving standard.

For grant makers this means helping them get data from their grant management systems into the 360 standard for publication, working through the issues that arise and then discussing online publication.  We have given number of briefings and talks to spread the word in trade groups special interest groups and donor collectives.  And we have funded the services of a data scientist to help people publish.


 

We have been delighted by the support and constructive challenge we have received.  We are particularly pleased to see Paul Hamlyn Foundation publishing its grants to the 360 standard.  We have commitment to publish from a number of other leading grant makers too, on which more soon.  It’s good to see Nominet Trust starting to publish richer data and doing interesting things such as mapping it with links through to recipient and grant details.

We are starting to see how having something as mundane as a data standard for grants  enables, makes easier or augments other projects that join grant makers up.  The 360 standard provides a common thread for Dulverton Trust’s work on a common grants management system in Salesforce.com and we are talking with Marcelle Spellar at Localgiving about how standarised data could contribute to their work, such as on a clearing house for applications.  We shall write some more on this.

On the technology side, we have taken large quantities of grant data and tested standardising it to the 360 giving data standard.  We used for testing the rudimentary grant data published by the lottery distributers and some statutory grant makers, often in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.  Working with the technology for development NGO Aptivate, we created a prototype searchable database of about 240,000 grants worth some £16 billion over 20 years from over a dozen grant makers.  Because the grant data is standardised, comparisons can be made between different grant makers.  The 360 prototype also allows comparative charts to be drawn of grants over time.

We are now adding into this prototype the more comprehensive data from early-adopting private grant makers.  Aptivate have also mapped the grants of two major grant makers over time allowing a fascinating comparison of grant making geography.  We shall release it online shortly warts and all – watch out for a blog post here.

Looking ahead to the Autumn working with partners we are now starting to think through how to create a registry of where 360giving data is published, building on but separate to the work of Open Spending.  And we are coming up with a plan for support of the 360 initiative going forwards.  We shall continue to work with grant makers to help them publish their data – we try to be discreet and supportive in our approach – a hectoring, regulatory-led approach is unlikely to succeed in this sector.  I shall blog some more about the pipeline for helping people publish and the common issues that they raise.

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