Data resource construction: open data, grantmaking data, and the organisational and financial base of the third sector.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Third Sector Research Centre

Abstract

The aim of this project is to provide comprehensive data on the contemporary population of third sector organisations in the UK. We will create one accessible & robust data resource that will help charities, third sector infrastructure bodies, funders & policymakers develop a fuller understanding of the sector. In effect this data resource will accurately map the full membership of the third sector. We will then use the growing body of data being made available on grantmaking to voluntary organisations, and on public procurement, to build resources which will allow researchers to improve understanding of the funding mix of third sector organisations.

The resources we create will help third sector organisations and policy makers because it will improve their understanding of their environment, particularly funding opportunities & also potential competitors or collaborators. This means they will be able to better support their beneficiaries by, for example, targeting their services or co-operating with similar organisations.

The data will meet administrative & research challenges facing the sector by providing a "spine" for the growing number of open data initiatives. This new data infrastructure will add new value to existing UK social science infrastructure, and will be able to be reused by academic and non-academic researchers (such as those working in government). This data will also help the Office for National Statistics as they work to improve coverage of non-profit organisations in the National Accounts (see letters of support). It is consistent with ESRC's strategic priorities such as a "Vibrant and fair society", in that it significantly enhances understanding of the resources of third sector organisations.

The project will:

Building on TSRC/NCVO's existing databases, generated by combining registers of charities and the Companies House register of companies, we will:

Classify organisations in the dataset

- We will develop & publish a method for classifying existing organisations (there remain considerable gaps in our classification of the many organisations that are nonprofit but which are also not charitable) & new organisations that come onto the register. This will enable users to select data for particular subsets of the sector, or for organisations operating in particular areas.

- Develop a website where this data can be hosted & accessed, with the ability to generate a list of specific organisations.

Match the data with other data sources

- Develop & publish a method & tools for matching a list of organisations to these databases, based on their name and any other information. This will make it easy to bring together other lists of organisations.

- Matching with lists of grant recipients published by grant makers. The main source of these lists will be the "360 Giving" initiative which is encouraging grantmakers to open up data about who they fund but we will work with other major funders. Published data already includes several hundred thousand awards made to voluntary organisations. We will also work with grantmakers to help them securely look at more detailed data - including data on applications for funding, making analyses of these possible for the first time.

- Matching with lists of government spending, particularly local government. These lists, often running to several hundred thousand transactions, contain an entry for every organisation that has received money from government departments or authorities. Because of the challenges involved in this - there are over 400 local authorities in England, with much variation in the quality of information - we will pilot this work in a selected region.

The project represents an excellent example of a partnership between a strong academic research centre, TSRC, and a high-profile national voluntary organisation, NCVO, in which research is designed and developed with the needs of user and academic communities equally in mind.

Planned Impact

Our programme will generate datasets which will be of significant value to a range of national and international, interdisciplinary, academic audiences interested in substantive and theoretical understanding of the third sector, and in particular the flows of resources to, and the funding base of, third sector organisations. Outside the immediate areas of concern, this work will (i) maximise value by re-using existing data sources; (ii) demonstrate the research possibilities of administrative data from regulators and funders of third sector organisations to new networks of users; and (ii) provide a case study of the potential and possible pitfalls of the emerging open data agenda.

Building upon our previous five years of research, we will extend existing data resources to cover a wider range of third sector organisations than previously possible. Academic researchers working on the sector have thus far lacked a comprehensive resource which identifies all relevant organisations in one location; we will also attach appropriate contextual and classificatory information to individual entities. This will be of value to researchers in a range of disciplines (Social Policy, Politics, Business and Management, Geography, Economics) who require authoritative evidence on the numbers and characteristics of third sector organisations.

The linkage of data on public funding flows to our databases will open up analyses of precisely which third sector organisations do and do not receive public funding. At present, administrative data are only readily available for charities and accounting conventions mean that it is difficult to determine precisely which organisations receive funding from which source. The data resources we are constructing will permit comparisons between types of third sector organisation and variations in reliance on public funding which hitherto have been possible only through survey data recording the presence / absence (not amount) of public income.

Linkage of grants data to our charities databases will enable analysts to develop a more refined picture of the importance of such funds to charities, differences between the characteristics of organisations that receive grants with those that do not, and the effect of funding streams on future trajectories of charities. This will be of value to those studying philanthropy and grantmaking, including the distributional effects of grants, particularly from an economic perspective. The incorporation into our data resources of both grants from charitable funders, and public expenditure, will underpin analyses that seek to explore the interaction between such funding sources.

Application data from funders will be of particular value to economists and analysts of the performance of voluntary organisations, who will be interested to analyse pre- and post-award trajectories (e.g. differential probability of survival of organisations, or differential growth rates of revenues). We therefore anticipate generating resources which will underpin novel analyses in this area.

We will present scholarly outputs at both national and international conferences, such as European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP, Paris, 2015). Mohan is on the ERNOP board, and ERNOP has (as a key focus) the enhancement of the evidence base on philanthropy; we therefore anticipate running sessions with a methodological focus. We will also target the ARNOVA (Association for Research on non-profit and Voluntary Action) conference, Chicago (2015). Linkage with the wider research community with interests in open data and in the use of administrative data will be achieved through liaison with National Centre for Research Methods, and the Administrative Data Research Centre for England (ADRC), see Letters of Support. We intend to present at appropriate events, e.g. the Research Methods Festival, and, in conjunction with NCRM/ADRC, run relevant courses and workshops.
 
Description The data on which we draw represent a formidable resource which has the potential to inform analyses of the distribution of funding to third sector organisations in the form of grants from foundations, government and others; to support further analytical work on the effects of such grants on the subsequent financial trajectories of organisations; to underpin investigations of the extent to which third sector organisations are in receipt of contracts from public sector agencies; and to analyse the balance between public and private provision of welfare services.

Key findings are, first of all, that despite the apparent era of transparency, the relevant data (especially that on government procurement) are not always available or accessible. There is a Transparency Code which ought to be followed, but we find that many local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) do not do so. This raises questions about the extent to which transparency has been promoted through this legislation. We have drawn this to the attention of government departments, but are not aware of improvements in practice.

Secondly, the data have great potential to inform debates about the distribution of public service contracts, both between third sector organisations and commercial entities, and within the third sector. Previous efforts to track financial flows into the third sector generally lack robustness for smaller organisations because the main sampling of charity accounts focusses, for good economic reasons, on capturing data which is representative of the economic weight of the sector, so captures limited data on smaller charities. But the procurement data are not restricted in this way and so one obtains much greater granularity. From this, also, one can discern that while the apparent capture of awards by large charities at the expense of small ones is the subject of much public debate, a much greater issue is the extent to which contracts are being handed to private sector organisations. the project provides firm foundations for further work in this field.

Thirdly, the financial awards data - on grants to charities - provide unparalleled granularity about who has received funding, where, and when, including information about their legal status, thus permitting analyses of relationships between likelihood of receipt of awards and future developmental trajectories, as well as cross-referencing of data between funders. This provides important insight into the impact and importance of grants - something which is of great interest to voluntary sector audiences.

Fourthly, the project provides an exemplar to the international research community in this field. We have presented findings at several international conferences and there is great potential for comparative work.
Exploitation Route By government, by transparency campaigners, by the third sector, and funders of voluntary activity. Policy makers may be interested in the extent to which public sector contracts are being won by nonprofits compared to private sector organisations; transparency campaigners have argued for disclosure of which companies receive public funding, and of the extent of such contracts, not least to enable informed debate about the merits of alternative ways of organising public services; third sector organisations are concerned at being squeezed out of public service markets. And funders will benefit from more informed insights into who is funding what.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.tsrc.ac.uk
 
Description This work is improving understanding of the distribution of public sector procurement and of grants to voluntary organisations, and has begun to engage users in charities and the public sector. We have had discussions with various stakeholders interested in the use of our data for answering questions in a wider context than originally envisaged - for example, health policy specialists are interestedin what the work can tell us about the balance, in terms of placement of contracts and amounts awarded, between commercial and non-profit contracts from CCGs for health care provision. We have had interest in this from health policy think tanks for example and the work done here has informed subsequent research - a recent example being an NIHR-funded project concerned with the role of the voluntary sector in supporting people who experience mental health crises where we used the data to help identify organisations engaged in such support. One illustration of engagement with practice has been a response to a consultation on the Local Government Transparency code. We provided evidence of the extent to which public sector agencies (principally, CCGs and local authorities) were or were not complying with requirements on them to disclose information on public procurement. That submission was made in July 2016; when last we checked the consultation website at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-local-government-transparency, the site stated that feedback was still being analysed. That location was checked again in February 2018 and it contained the same notice. it still contains the same notice, suggesting that nothing much is happening. Another illustration has been that we have run events which were enthusiastically received by non-academic partners, such as 360 Degree Giving. We believe the impact of the work will be evident in building the momentum for greater transparency and in use of transparency datasets to analyse not just the funding base of the third sector (as we originally proposed) but as a basis for answering questions about the balance between public and private provision of welfare services. This contributes to the wider public good. We also believe it will contribute towards giving voluntary organisations improved understanding of their "market position" in relation to public service contracting. please note that the original website for this award (tsrc-ncvo-csdp.com) is not the long-term repository for the data; that is now at UK Data Service from where the data may be downloaded. Other impacts have included being invited to chair a large-scale conference on Voluntary Sector Data, London, in oCtober 2018, attended by some 200 delegates and contributing a webinar to a nonprofit data series of such events run by Alasdair Rutherford at the university of Stirling.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description DCLG Local Authority Transparency Code Consultation of May 2016
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-local-government-transparency
 
Description INvitation to chair the Voluntary Sector Data Conference, London, October 2018, delivered by Inside Government with support from the Fundraising Regulator, DataKind UK. the conference was designed to assess how voluntary organisations can manage, protect and utilise data to ensure high quality reuglatory compliance while maximising social impact.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Division of Social Sciences, University of Oxford
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Title Code Repository for Matching Public Payments Data 
Description Set of computational tools to approximately match messy public payments data to registers of institutional suppliers. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The code has since been used in other evaluatory, ongoing projects soon to be released as working papers. 
URL https://github.com/crahal/TSRC-NCVO-CSDP
 
Title Huge Databases of Public Payments Data 
Description This project collected spending data from a large number of local authorities and CCGs by downloading the datasets from authority websites. Each of the datasets then needed to be cleaned - including identifying missing or incomplete rows, converting dates into a standard format 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Used in other on-going projects soon to be submitted for publication. 
URL http://tsrc-ncvo-csdp.com/
 
Description Joint Collaboration with NCVO 
Organisation National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The project was co-ordinated in conjunction with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Collaborator Contribution Research design, data wrangling, website dashboard construction
Impact tsrc-ncvo-csdp.com
Start Year 2015
 
Description Data Partnerships Event in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Series of presentations related to the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Manchester Charity Data Challenge 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Workshop designed to showcase the project, with hands on sessions and presentations in the form of a data 'hackathon'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/charity-data-challenge-tickets-21524419117
 
Description Presentation at the International Conference for Administrative Data Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation was made at the International Conference for Administrative Data Research which utilized work from this grant, detailing future expansions from a methodological perspective (with policy applications).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://adr2018.wordpress.com/
 
Description Views of NCVO Almanac website - this publication is based on data jointly constructed by NCVO and TSRC throuh this project. The website had 247 000 views in 2016 and in 2017 (so far) over 63000. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Our dataset, which we are building on in this project, underpins analyses of UK civil society in the NCVO Almanac of Civil Society. Without ESRC support the data would not be available for analysis. NCVO report that the Almanac website has received 366 000 views in 2015, 247000 in 2016, and 63000 in 2017, to date. They have also published various blogs based on the data, available at http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk, which have each had several hundred reads.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
 
Description presentation at conference of charity trustees and investment managers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation at Birmingham Charities conference organised by an investment management firm which manages considerable sums of money for charities mainly in the West Midlands. The theme of the conference was about the changing environment for charities and so the presentation, reflecting on themes and results from several years of TSRC's work, concentrated on elements of change and continuity in the funding environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description presentation at conference of regional and local voluntary organisations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation at conference of Sandwell Community Hubs, organised by a regional infrastructure body for the voluntary sector in the west Midlands. The theme of the presentation concerned the role of the third sector sector in the regeneration of deprived neighbourhoods and communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description presentation at conference of third sector organisations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation of overview of key findings on change and continuity in the third sector at TSRC tenth anniversary conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description views of NCVO almanac website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact the data underpins the NCVO Almanac and they produce a website through which its findings are disseminated. in 2017 they estimate that 203431 people used this website. the data are widely used in the third sector as an evidence base. they contribute to decisionmaking by funders, and by commissioners of public services
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://data.ncvo.org.uk/