First cohort of grantees selected

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Digital Impact (formerly Markets For Good) has awarded nearly $275,000 in grants to seven projects spearheaded by U.S. nonprofits and universities to build a higher impact social sector founded in responsible digital data use and infrastructure.

The selected projects represent the first cohort of grantees for the new grants program, which launched in June 2016 with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program aims to advance the role of digital data and infrastructure for improving decision-making in philanthropy and in the social sector writ large.

Grant awards range from $12,000 to $100,000 and will fund both new and ongoing innovation and research to be conducted in 2017.

The grantees and their project titles and descriptions include:

Standardizing Resource Data APIs (Open Referral)

“We will develop an open specification for resource directory APIs — enabling institutions to publish interoperable data about the health, human, and social services available to people in need.”


Drexel University (Neville Vakharia)
Nonprofit Ecosystem Research and Visualization

“We will help the sector understand and visualize critical data on the breadth and reach of nonprofits and their communities, creating opportunities for new connections, collaborations, and donors.”


Engagement Lab at Emerson College, MIT Center for Civic Media, & TNB Labs A Data Literacy Toolkit for Nonprofit Organizations (

“We plan to create a data literacy toolkit for nonprofit organizations by customizing our existing technology, integrating relevant data, creating targeted howtos, and running workshops with nonprofits.”



The Governance Lab/National Center for Civic Innovation
Data Labs: Applying the Model in Other Contexts  

“Data Labs is a model for evaluating the effectiveness of social programs using administrative data — this project will investigate how and where it can be replicated and aim to initiate pilots.”



Informed Giving Through Rapid Community Surveys

“This grant will fund the testing of whether relevant, timely, data about local needs will drive potential donors to learn about nonprofits that address these issues.”


Media Mobilizing Project
Bad Data In: Communities Build Best Practice Database and Toolkit on Predictive Algorithmic Risk Assessment in Pretrial Detention

“Courts are using algorithms to release ‘low-risk’ defendants — we’ll study racial bias in these tools, best practices in implementation, and disseminate results through a robust civil rights network.”

Center for Democracy & Technology, SIMLab, The Engine Room & Future of Privacy Forum Education and Innovation Foundation
Good Data Collaborative

“The Good Data Collaborative seeks to identify gaps in resources to assist civil society in using data responsibly through distinct activities: a landscape assessment of existing tools and resources, as well as academic literature; a consultation with key stakeholders and current and potential users of the resources; and a redesigned, central repository of resources to help them address responsible data challenges in their work.”

“We’re excited to work with this inaugural cohort to see what we can learn and achieve for the benefit of the entire social sector,” said Lucy Bernholz, Senior Research Scholar at Stanford PACS and Director of its Digital Civil Society Lab. “We’re very encouraged by the response to the program and hope to leverage its outcomes to spur additional innovation, collaboration, knowledge building, and funding. We want these grants to catalyze a real shift toward digital data use and infrastructure that is not only effective but safe and responsible in supporting social impact.”

Grantees will use funds to develop research, prototypes, and shared learning that can help donors and social sector organizations use digital data safely, ethically, and effectively to improve their work. All work supported by these grants will be publicly shared and geared toward improving practice in the field.

Grantees will attend the upcoming Data on Purpose / Do Good Data conference at Stanford University on February 7-8, 2017, and they will present the outcomes of their work to the Stanford community in late 2017.

The first grant cycle generated 74 applications, from organizations in 49 cities across 25 states, including 64 applications for innovation grants and 10 for research grants. The total amount of funding requested by all applicants was $2,786,175. The smallest request was $1,000 and the largest was $160,000.

Ninety-six percent of applicants agreed to share some aspects of their project proposals publicly. Digital Impact has shared an interactive data visualization of the projects and ideas proposed through the first grant cycle, and will add to it through future cycles with the goal of spurring additional collaboration, ideation and investment in the field.

Applications for the second cycle of grants will open in Spring 2017.

For a complete list of the 2016 grant applicants who agreed to share details about their projects, click here.

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