Grantsfire: A New Way to Share Grants Knowledge
Imagine a vision for the Philanthropic Sector...
…where elected officials could automatically access information about grantmaking on a particular issue or in a geographic region. For example, elected officials from western states who have supported conservation legislation could receive customized information about a grantmaker's conservation initiatives in the region.
…where regional associations of grantmakers could aggregate information from their grantmaker constituency, combining grant data with electoral districts and communicating that information to elected officials representing those districts.
…where affinity groups could aggregate information on the grantmakers who fund in their particular areas of interest in real-time (as foundations publish this information on their websites), allowing unprecedented, current analysis for their members. As it stands now, most affinity groups painstakingly compile this information from data provided by their members in annual surveys that tally grants made in the past year. This process is cumbersome, expensive, and rarely comprehensive.
…where program officers could track grants made in their programmatic areas, to stay informed about who else is funding (and who is getting funded) in real-time. Including a vital tool for staff conducting due diligence, saving them time and effort in intelligence gathering on any given funding area or grantee.
… where smaller foundations who don't currently post grants data on their websites could use a tool to publish their grants, saving the time and expense of maintaining and updating their website.
These scenarios are now possible with a newly launched initiative—Grantsfire, a project of the nonprofit Solpath, Inc. Grantsfire is focused on making rich, useful, and up-to-date grantmaking information easily and widely accessible in real-time. We believe there is a better, more efficient way to collect and distribute grants data, and have set out to:
- Make it easy for grantmakers to publish their grants data automatically, without manual exports and uploads;
- Provide easy access to grantmaking information through our web-based search engine or through open RSS feeds that give anyone access to the full set of Grantsfire data;
- Publish open data, encouraging others to mash-up grants data from multiple organizations, creating a market for alternative and interesting services around grants information; and
- Reduce the costs associated with collecting grants data and passing those savings on to the people who need it most—grantseekers.
Network-oriented strategies have eased operations in many other professional fields in the last fifteen years, both quantitatively and qualitatively changing those fields in the process. Grantsfire applies these same strategies to the field of grants information with similar results in mind, including:
- Streamlining the grantseeking process by making better information available to nonprofit organizations, helping them identify potential funders, and enabling them to more effectively target grant submissions;
- Strengthening ties between nonprofits and foundations by serving as a catalyst for community-building;
- Becoming a source for business intelligence about philanthropic giving by foundations; and
- Creating a market for alternative services around grants information.
Grantsfire is an Information Exchange
Grantsfire allows grantseekers and funders alike to search for and aggregate information about grants through four main components:
1) A website built on open source software. It is intended to be a “data repository” that pulls recently published grants information from participating foundation website feeds. It is both an example of what can be done with an open ecosystem of grants information and a valuable tool in itself.
2) A protocol and a standard. In order for the grants information to be easily read by the Grantsfire engine and for use in other applications, we have established a simple unified standard— “hGrant” —that encapsulates the most basic and useful information about grants. hGrant has been developed with a community methodology (see http://hgrant.org/) and with an emphasis on making data from foundations useful to people and other applications.
3) A publisher. In addition to pooling grants data, Grantsfire makes this information searchable and publishable by keywords and other filtering criteria. We aim to have discrete RSS feeds that a user can subscribe to that will feed relevant grants information based upon the filtering criteria desired, and
4) A network. Grantsfire is a growing network of foundations, vendors, nonprofits, and researchers that are collaborating to create a resource for the nonprofit sector and beyond. Collectively, we believe that a greater flow of accurate, up-to-date grant information is beneficial to everyone in this field and that web technology holds the key for achieving this goal.
Here’s where you come in…
Grantsfire's success ultimately lies in the hands of our community. We are just starting out, and the efficacy of Grantsfire grows as more foundations share grant information and the community develops new ways to use the accessible grants data.
Please help us bring the concept of real-time, cost effective grants data to fruition by encouraging your organizations to get involved, by publishing your grants data, or by potentially supporting our ongoing outreach efforts. You do not have to be technologically inclined to participate. We can assist you in getting set-up and coordinating with your staff or software representative.
You can learn more about the Grantsfire project, and how to get involved at http://grantsfire.org. You can also follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/grantsfire, and read our blog at http://blog.grantsfire.org/.
For more information please contact Jason Ricci at Jason [at-sign] solpath [dot] org.
The GMN Examiner Editorial Team
The GMN Examiner is published three times a year through the dedicated efforts of GMN members and volunteers.
Ericka Novotny – Editor
Allison Gister – Associate Editor