Open hGrant: The Little Plug-in for Philanthropy’s Big Data

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund’s overall mission is to foster a healthy, just, and vibrant society. We’ve mostly carried out that mission through grantmaking and leadership in our various fields of interest. But, recently, we found a new, and unlikely, way to advance our mission – through the development of a piece of open-source software, Open hGrant for WordPress.

Like many foundations, we operate our own proprietary system for recording, tracking, and publishing grants. Even when we want to share this information, which you can see from our Glass Pockets profile, doing so is a technical challenge. Different formats and structures make standardizing years of data a costly burden. Grantmaking data exist, but remains practically difficult to access and assess, much less share.

As a medium sized, locally focused foundation, we operate knowing that we can’t be effective unless we have great partners – to align our funding with, grant to, and learn from. Yet, the idiosyncratic nature of grants databases is an obstacle to forming truly strategic partnerships.

Imagine our surprise when, in the process of updating our website, we found ourselves with an intriguing opportunity to address this problem for us and for the wider philanthropic community. What if there was a data system that was machine-readable by leading open data initiatives — such as the Foundation Center’s hGrant technical specification — and could do more than just publish our grantmaking to our website? What if it could report any philanthropy’s grantmaking in a way that creates opportunities to collect, catalog, map, and analyze giving? Many of us talk about increasing transparency, but this, potentially, is something more. This is about using transparency to foster effective collaboration, strategic planning, and engagement across the philanthropic sector.

Working together with the Foundation Center and with Mission Minded, we have developed an open-source, free solution that any grantmaking entity can use to make its grantmaking data searchable, publishable, sharable, and fully accessible. Open hGrant for WordPress lets grantmakers of all sizes and types publish giving data to the web in a standardized format that can be automatically shared with the Foundation Center, and be reflected in its suite of tools, such as the Reporting Commitment.

Open hGrant for WordPress is now available for free download. You can see it in action on the Fund’s own Recent Grantmaking pages. As we continue to develop it — with the help of The Foundation Center, Mission Minded, and our grantmaker peers — we look forward to encouraging wider participation in open data initiatives, driving collaboration and real collective impact, and ultimately boosting our capacity to further our missions.

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