In theory, funding bodies in the non profit space have a lot in common as they are trying to make an impact on many of the same social challenges. So what stops us from aligning our resources to make more strategic collaborations and improve shared outcomes?
In 2015, there was a fundamental issue in play. When it came to the basic landscape of funding in the UK - the data that existed was simply not usable. It was not actually possible to see where billions of grant spend went. The problem was not a complete absence of data - Charity Commission reporting "SORP" meant that much time and effort went into creating many annual reports. The problem was that data was:
Fran and Will Perrin of Indigo Trust approached Nesta to explore an idea they had begun to develop around an open data standard for UK funders. We then brought a team together of Nominet Trust, Open Data Services and some pioneering leaders at Community Fund and Esmée Fairbairn, and started working on the problem. Later that year, we created an independent organisation – 360Giving and took part as trustees of the new organisation. 360Giving aims to support funders to publish to the standard, and use and benefit from the data.
We quickly realised that we had two jobs to do at once - to rapidly build a significant supply of open data and to create understanding of and demand for this data. To drive ambition and vision we made what seemed like a rather scary public moonshot goal of 80% of UK grant funding being published to an open standard. 5 years later this is looking pretty good. 120 funders are working with over 200,000 organisations trying to make a social impact. £30billion worth of funding data is now openly available. This is something that outgoing CEO Rachel Rank and her team can feel deeply proud of as she hands over to new CEO Tania Cohen in March.
We owe data excellence to all those many people who grant funds are trying to support
However, it is just the beginning - the most exciting potential is now seen in how the sector is taking on the challenge to be truly excellent in non-profit data use for the common good, directing grant funds more effectively step by step for the long haul. We believe that we owe data excellence to all those many people who grant funds are trying to support. Since having great success in increasing data flows, 360Giving now supports funders to start going deeper. We backed new tools to help people explore the data and to realise new ways of looking at their work - GrantNav and 360Insights. 360Giving also helps funders to work with the data to generate insights into what gets funded, where and by whom. Publishing and using the data is also helping funders to understand themselves – and each other – better, and be more strategic and targeted in their grantmaking. We hope this will mean that over the next 5 years we will see effective collaborations and resulting benefits for society as resources are better targeted with common purpose.