In 2013 the Hewlett Foundation, alongside seven other foundation funding partners, partnered with the Foundation Center to develop an online, interactive, data visualization tool to map "who is funding whom to do what" in the field of U.S. democracy reform. The tool is intended to provide a clearer picture of what issue areas and organizations other foundations are supporting and thereby to help improve philanthropic investment and coordination in this growing field. The beta version was launched in June 2014. This grant would support four main activities: 1) integrating new data into the tool, 2) improving the accuracy of existing data, 3) improving tool functionality and usability, and 4) promoting the tool to the broader field.
About the Grantee
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Grants to this Grantee
for support of a project to map foundation funding aimed at improving democracy in the United States
The Hewlett Foundation is considering developing a set of strategies to help address the growing dysfunction in the U.S. political system. As we begin to explore possible strategies, we would like to understand what other foundations are funding in this area. We also expect, based on conversations with peers, that this area of philanthropic investment could be greatly improved by a clearer picture of what issue areas and organizations other foundations are supporting. After a lengthy RFP process including submissions from CIRCLE, Bridgespan, and FSG, Hewlett selected Foundation Center as the optimal partner to help map democracy funding flows. Foundation Center will work with the Hewlett Foundation and in collaboration with its seven funding partners—the Omidyar Network’s Democracy Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, Open Society Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the JPB Foundation. The Center will create a data visualization tool to reflect relevant grants data, supported by a taxonomy that will serve as the Center’s primary democracy-related taxonomy moving forward.
for general operating support
For more than fifty years, the Foundation Center has been a crucial source of information about philanthropic capital flows. This long history has given Foundation Center a chance to build a large user base and a reputation for stability. But over the last decade the Foundation Center found itself struggling to adapt to rapidly changing technology. In October 2008, the Foundation Center hired a new CEO who has transformed the organization, bringing dynamism, engagement, and creativity to its work. This operating support grant would complement a set of 2010 project grants from the Philanthropy and Global Development programs to support a partnership with IssueLab and alignment with the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
for general operating support
This grant essentially supplements an active general support grant to the Foundation Center, 2012-7346. The new grant was initiated in recognition of the Foundation Center becoming the implementing partner of the Reporting Commitment. As the implementer of the Reporting Commitment, the Foundation Center worked with 15 of the largest private foundations in the US on a pioneering open data project. As participants in the Reporting Commitment, 15 foundations agreed to publish their grants data at least quarterly in an open, machine-readable format. They also agreed to code their grants using a common geographic taxonomy that would identify the area served by the grant (rather than the location of the grant recipient). Many of the foundations required extensive upfront technical assistance and will continue to require support in order to fully implement the commitment. As noted in the AppSum for 2012-7346, the Foundation Center has historically been somewhat risk averse and defensive of their business model. In this case the Foundation Center took on considerable risk because the open data movement presents a potential threat to its business model. (The Center generates most of its revenue by selling subscriptions to a directory of foundation grants.) During the year long effort the Foundation Center expended significant internal resources and took on a challenging multi-foundation standards setting role. Given that this is exactly the sort of high-risk, sectorwide project we would like to see Foundation Center do more of, an increase in general support is recommended.