Grant funders – a call for data

We were recently very pleased to hear that we’ve received funding from Nesta to look at ways of finding data on below the radar groups. Our project is going to try to identify the “below-the-radar” groups within data from funders on who they fund.

Below the radar groups, by their very nature, are difficult to study. By below the radar, we mean groups that aren’t formally registered as a charity or a company, generally very small in money terms, and led by volunteer activity. The Third Sector Research Centre, and others, have done fantastic work in studying these organisations in depth, focused on local areas and qualitative studies. National data is understandably difficult to come by.

Our attempt to plug this gap is going to use data produced by funders. Inspired particularly by the initiative, which is asking funders to open up data about the organisations they fund, we’re going to use this data to identify below the radar groups.

We’re going to match the data from funders to official registers of organisations, like the Charity Commission register or Companies House data. Whatever’s left (after lots of data cleaning) should be below the radar organisations. We’re going to test whether they are by looking in depth at one local area, and then we should be able to use the data to answer some basic questions about the characteristics of these organisations.

So this blog post is in part a call for data. If you’re an organisation that makes grants to organisations, particularly if those organisations are small and unregistered, I’d love to hear from you and talk to you about opening up your data. By opening up data in the way that encourages I think you can get all the benefits that they outline, plus contribute to this exciting research project.

If you’d like to get in touch you can contact me at, or leave a comment below.

If you are nervous about opening up data in this way then I can answer any questions that you have, and we can also use data in our research that has been shared privately with us in confidence. But we think the maximum benefit, for you and for others, comes from freely sharing this data. We’ve already got data from funders like the Big Lottery Fund, Nesta themselves and Nominet Trust in the pipeline, so there are already organisations seeing the benefits.

Finally, I’d recommend looking at the four other projects that Nesta is funding in this area too. There’s a range of approaches, from a range of different organisations, so it’s going to be fascinating to see the results from all of them.

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Avatar photo David Kane was formerly NCVO’s Senior Research Officer. He discusses open data and emerging trends in the voluntary and community sector and wider civil society.

One Response to Grant funders – a call for data

  1. Pingback: Hype, hope, help? A perspective on open grantmaking data | John Mohan