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2016 Grantees

In 2016, Digital Impact awarded nearly $275,000 in grants to six projects spearheaded by US 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 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. Awards ranged from $12,000 to $100,000 and funded new and ongoing innovation and research in 2017.

Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS) and Open Referral

Standardizing Resource Data APIs

Project Page

"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."

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

Good Data Collaborative

Project Page

"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."

Drexel University (Neville Vakharia)

Nonprofit Ecosystem Research and Visualization

Project Page

"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 (

Project Page

"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."

Media Mobilizing Project

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

Project Page

"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."

The Governance Lab/National Center for Civic Innovation

Data Labs: Applying the Model in Other Contexts

Project Page

"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."

“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 conference at Stanford University on February 7-8, 2017, and they will present the outcomes of their work to the Stanford community in 2018.

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 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. View a list of 2016 applicants who agreed to share details about their projects here.