Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Collaborative Project Seeks to Unlock Nonprofit Data

You may know what a Form  990 is and you may know that Charity Navigator uses the information contained in these documents to rate charities. But did you know that accessing the treasure trove of data in these documents requires intensive manual review, advanced computer skills, or both? That's right. Since the start of Charity Navigator, a significant portion of our staff's time has been devoted to data entry. 

As you can imagine, there was a collective sigh of relief in our office, last June, when the IRS began to release the Form 990 data in a digitized format. While this was great news, worth celebrating, we quickly learned that the data wasn't easily accessible. In fact, data scientists and researchers have encountered difficulties mapping and interpreting the information. As such, the full potential of the open 990 data as a tool for the public has yet to be realized.

Today, 17 nonprofit researchers and data scientists have convened, in Washington D.C., to work on a solution. In addition to Charity Navigator, participants include Chris Thompson, an independent researcher, as well as representatives from the Aspen Institute, GuideStar, Urban Institute, Syracuse University, Indiana University, and George Washington University. As you can see from the photos, these experts are working hard to accelerate the process of converting the digitized Form 990 data into a more accessible, public database - a win for nonprofits, policymakers, government regulators, and donors!





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