Grant-making needs to take a lead from other sectors and start seeing data as a resource, according to a report by NPC.
Valuing data: how to use it in your grant-making argues that data is a valuable resource for grant-makers that should be cared for and used to deliver impact in the same way money is.
According to NPC, more than £2.7 billion is given away by 10,000 charitable foundations in the UK every year, generating huge amounts of data. It argues that better use of this data offers opportunities for funders to improve their practices by enabling them to identify and highlight needs, reduce inefficiencies in the application process, understand their impact, test perceptions and inform strategy.
However, it has found that few foundations use data in this way and that many feel ill equipped to take advantage of it. The report argues that a major shift in thinking is required before the sector is able to acknowledge data’s value, with grant-givers at the beginning of being able to use open data to shape products, services, and interventions.
Among the reasons cited for this include a need for leadership, limited capacity, the desire for anonymity, which some fear publishing their data may compromise, and concerns around how data will be presented.
NPC recommends that individual grant-makers work together with those who share similar interests, including charities and data experts, and suggests that the Association for Charitable Foundations (ACF) take the lead on facilitating a sector-wide approach to data usage to ensure that grant-makers deliver the best possible impact for the people and communities they serve.
Ruth Gripper, co-author of the report, said:
“There are steps that every grant-maker can take individually to improve their use of data, such as using it to identify funding hot spots or to quickly identify and respond to emerging trends. However, there is a lot to be gained by funders looking at this issue collectively. A sector approach – led by ACF – could help to address the challenge of capacity and help ensure that funders become better at what they do, thus delivering increased impact for beneficiaries.”