Giving Compass’ Take:
• Belén Bonilla and Cinthia Schuman Ottinger explain how open nonprofit data can increase the impact of an organization by providing a valuable resource for researchers.
• How can funders help nonprofits overcome barriers to sharing their data, including privacy concerns and extra labor?
Pamela Paxton, a professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, is taking a fresh approach to studying donations and volunteering: looking at the data from electronically-filed Form 990s that U.S. nonprofit organizations submit to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Two years ago, her current research would have been impossible.
The IRS began releasing free and searchable electronically-filed Form 990 data to the public via Amazon Web Services in 2016, following a successful lawsuit by Public.Resource.org and pressure from the Aspen Institute and nonprofit research groups such as GuideStar, Urban Institute, Foundation Center, Indiana University and Johns Hopkins University. Since then, Paxton’s undertakings reveal that the data are key to answering critical questions social scientists aim to address and understand.
“Do nonprofits in a community increase well-being? What increases volunteering rates?” Paxton asked. “We can use the data to understand how nonprofits matter, and where and when they thrive.”
Read the full article about open nonprofit data by Belén Bonilla and Cinthia Schuman Ottinger at The Aspen Institute.
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