Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on our work, the 360Giving Standard and opening up grants data. If you have any further questions please get in touch.
1. What is open data?
Open data is defined as ‘data and content that can be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose’. For a more detailed definition of open data see: http://opendefinition.org/.
2. What is the 360Giving Standard and why is it important?
The 360Giving Standard is a uniform and consistent way to describe grantmaking data. It consists of a set of ‘fields’ and definitions. For example, there are fields for the amount of funding applied for by each grantee, the amount awarded, and the start and end dates of delivery.
Think of each grantmakers’ data as books in a public library all in the same language, organised systematically. Organisations publishing grant information using the 360Giving Standard use the same headings and formatting so the data can be easily read, understood, collated and compared by everybody. Data published to the 360Giving Standard can be located and ‘read’ easily by different applications and machines.
3. What kind of organisation can publish data?
Any grantmaker can publish their data to the 360Giving Standard, including charitable trusts and foundations; central and local government agencies; and other publicly-funded bodies that primarily make charitable grants. We define grantmakers as ‘any registered organisation that provides non-repayable funding in the form of a charitable gift to charities or other voluntary or community organisations’.
4. What are the benefits of openly publishing grants data?
Open grants data can be compared on a like-for-like basis and can be shared and modified by anyone for any purpose. The more open data that is published the better picture we will have on who is funding what and where. This means we can start to see where there are funding overlaps as well as ‘cold spots’ where awards are low. We can see which causes are well-supported and which ones are not. This will lead to more informed, evidence-based and strategic grantmaking.
Open grants data also allows grantmakers to identify new, under the radar grantees while grant seekers will be able to see better who might fund them and so save time and effort in looking for support. Open grants data will make the sector more efficient and more effective. We call it the #greatergrantsdata movement.
5. What is 360Giving’s business model?
360Giving is a registered charity with a non-profit operating model. Our mission is to support UK grantmakers to publish information on who, where and what they fund in an open, standardised format to build a better picture of the funding landscape and boost its impact. We are currently funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Indigo Trust through grants. Our service is free of charge and there is no membership fee. We do not own the published data and it is freely available for anyone to use.
6. Who manages the 360Giving Standard?
The Standard was developed by 360Giving, with inputs from technical experts that have developed other open data standards including Open Contracting and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. The 360Giving Standard is maintained by a multi-stakeholder Stewardship Committee that includes representatives from 360Giving, grantmakers, data users and technical experts. The group discusses the information included in the Standard and reviews when upgrades and any changes are required, ensuring that the governance and revision process is properly carried out. Visit the Governance of the 360Giving Standard page for more information about the Stewardship Committee, its members and the governance and revision process.
7. How does 360Giving ensure that the information published is accurate?
360Giving provides a means for grantmakers to publish their data – we do not own the information or check its accuracy. Accuracy is the responsibility of individual publishers. 360Giving tools can be used to convert and validate the data to check that it conforms with the Standard. We also know that the process of publishing data helps grantmakers to improve accuracy – by looking closely at what information is currently collected, how it is presented and what information is missing.
In situations where an organisation or individual would like the data that has been shared to be taken down, we follow an agreed process, as outlined in our Take Down policy.
8. What does publishing open grants data involve and what skills are needed?
Publishing data to the 360Giving Standard is a straightforward process and doesn’t require prior experience or technical expertise. The first time you publish your data you will need your grantmaking to be aligned to the 360Giving templates so you can publish to your own website, and then link it to the Registry.
In the longer-term, this process can be automated, so information is produced directly out of your systems, rather than manually produced. Making it part of your routine workflow is the most sustainable way to publish data. 360Giving has developed materials to guide organisations through the process. Visit the How to Publish Data page for more information. Free support is also available to those who want it by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Does data have to be complete before it is published?
No, data doesn’t have to be complete before it is published. You can start by publishing what you can and build on these foundations. For example, you could publish grants for certain years or sectors. Experience has shown that the publishing process helps to improve the quality of your data, as it encourages a detailed look at what information is currently collected where; how it should be presented; and what information is missing.
10. Is there a risk that the government and other grantmakers will reduce their funding to certain charities or sectors if they can see who else is already funding them?
There is no evidence to suggest that grantmakers or government would reduce funding by having greater access to grant data. Funding information is already made available by charities as part of their reporting to the Charity Commission. 360Giving makes it easier to access and compare this information, which should make grantmaking more informed. Most grantmakers will understand that organisations seek and receive funding from several different sources and for a combination of core and project-based activities.
11. I’m concerned that the data isn’t mine to give away. Will my grantees be compromised in some way?
Data on awards to grantees belongs to the grantmaker, and is not being ‘given’ to 360Giving by publishing it openly. It is understandable that for some grantmakers, making data fully open and accessible is a big cultural shift. Information on certain grants may need to remain confidential, perhaps for example due to the nature of the grantee or the geographic location. Indeed, any data which could identify specific individuals should not be openly published.
Having up-to-date policies for data handling and data protection which are understood and agreed by a grantmaker and its grantees is good practice and should ‘head-off’ any uncertainties around data ownership. Find out more about data protection.
12. Are there any networks which will allow me to discuss data publishing with other grantmakers?
This is an important factor for many grantmakers and we encourage the establishment of peer networks as more organisations publish their data. We will help facilitate these networks, with the aim of them meeting regularly to discuss the benefits and best practice of publishing and using data.
13. How does publishing grant data contribute to measuring the impact of grants?
360Giving is facilitating better identification of financial inputs into the charitable sector. Whilst it does not record outcomes, this is an important first step in quantifying the value derived from grants. We are also creating an opportunity for grantmakers to use their data as an asset that will benefit the whole sector which is an added impact of grantmaking.