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2017 Request for Proposal (Closed)

The 2017 window for applications closed at 5 PM Pacific Time on June 12, 2017.

The next Digital Impact Grants cycle will open in Spring 2018.

View the 2017 awards announcement.

Sign up for our newsletter and connect with us @dgtlimpact to stay informed about future opportunities.

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Digital Impact (formerly Markets for Good) is an initiative of the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. We work to improve the digital infrastructure for civil society and help social sector practitioners and policymakers use digital resources safely, ethically, and effectively for maximum impact. Digital Impact is made possible with the ongoing support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the progressive financial firm Liquidnet, and Knight Foundation.

Digital Impact Grants (formerly Good Data Grants) launched in 2016. Grants are awarded for two types of projects: scholarly research and sector advancement. We aim to support research, prototypes, and shared learning that can help donors and social sector organizations use digital data safely, ethically, and effectively to improve their work.

Digital Impact is committed to supporting cohorts of grantees and connecting them to the broader Digital Impact and Digital Civil Society Lab communities. We hope that the availability of these funds will help spark other funding in this area and inform the field of new ideas and efforts focused on using digital data effectively and responsibly. Toward that end, all applicants, regardless of whether they are selected for a grant or not, will have the opportunity to opt in to share their contact information and ideas as part of a “map” of the field, which we will build on over time and make publicly available for anyone’s use.

Explore an interactive map of 2016 applications, view a full list of submitted projects, and meet the first round of grant recipients.


View a list of 2016 grant recipients.

Digital Impact Grants are intended to support research and innovations that have broad application for improving knowledge, practices, and outcomes across the social sector. Grants are not available for proprietary projects or initiatives that only benefit a single organization. Proposals should take a sector-wide approach in their design and focus.

Research grants are for academic teams exploring questions of scholarly interest that have practical applications for the social sector, or scholarly review of existing practice. Sample topics for consideration include (these are suggestions only):

  • Investigations of charitable or public good activity on crowdfunding platforms. What do we know about what is being funded on these platforms? What can research show about human behavior on these platforms?  On the role that the platforms play in the broader ecosystem of philanthropy? Or on regulatory practice regarding privacy, data sharing, reporting, and accountability practices?
  • Research on ethical and governance issues related to the use of algorithmic decision making tools in nonprofits or social sector contexts. Surveys or analyses of the state of the field, or comparative analysis of different methodologies are of interest.
  • Research on community-based governance and oversight of data assets. ​Surveys or analyses of the state of the field, or comparative analysis of different methodologies are of interest.
  • Research to inform policy regarding a standard for public reporting of data from crowdfunding platforms.
  • New applications of data science, or use of new data sets such as social media or payment processor data, to understand the relationships (complementary, substitutional, other) between individual political, charitable contributions. What can these data sets tell us about how we spend money in line with our values?

We welcome applications from scholars in any academic discipline as well as from cross-disciplinary teams.

Sector grants are intended for nonprofits and partners to address sector-wide challenges in using digital data safely, ethically and effectively.  Priority will be given to projects that align with the four principles for digital data use outlined on the Digital Impact Toolkit: consent, privacy, openness and pluralism. Some ways to address these issues include: reproducible consent practices, best practices for data sharing across organizations or sectors, new organizational governance practices or trainings, or software platforms or tools built to prioritize permission or ownership. A sample ideas for sector grants include (these are suggestions only):

  • Development and review of principles, practices, and processes for sharing data across nonprofits, government, and/or industry.
  • Digital fundraising or marketing practices that meet EU GDPR requirements and can be turned into specifications for use and adaptation by other organizations.
  • Organizational templates or processes for improving digital literacy and security.
  • Tools or templates for committing/forking civil society data governance policies (e.g. using or github).


Research grants will be made to faculty or graduate students at universities in the United States and abroad. Priority will be given to research projects with either a demonstrated commitment to practical applications in the social sector or those that clearly articulate a plan to turn their research into practical knowledge. We welcome applications from any disciplinary perspective or methodology, as well as applications that bring together multiple disciplinary inquiries.

Sector grants will be made to non-profit organizations in the United States and abroad. U.S.-based organizations must have 501(c)(3) status. Organizations based outside of the U.S. must have equivalent exempt status. Please note that the grant excludes activities with countries against which the United States maintains a comprehensive embargo unless such activities are fully authorized by the U.S. government under applicable law and specifically approved by the Gates Foundation in its sole discretion.


Digital Impact Grants are subawards from the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University. Selected grantees will complete and submit a form to the Office of Sponsored Research at Stanford University. Upon full approval by Stanford grantees will submit an invoice for the full amount of the award, to be paid by Stanford at the beginning of the grant period.

Amount: We have a total funding pool of $200,000 for 2017 grants. We anticipate making between 5 and 15 grants, although number and size will depend on the applicant pool.

Duration: Grants are for one year, beginning late Fall 2017 and ending Fall 2018.

Disbursement: Funds will be disbursed in Fall 2017 upon completion of all required documents by grantees and final approval by Stanford University


All work must be done with the expectation of being publicly shared and geared toward improving practice in the field.

Participation & contribution

  1. Grantees will be invited to participate in a February 2018 conference at Stanford (travel costs covered by Digital Impact separately from grant funds) as an opportunity to meet other grantees, engage with the broader community, and kickstart their projects.
  2. Grantees are expected to provide a demonstration/presentation of their work to the Digital Impact community in the Fall of 2018 (date to be determined).
  3. Grantees will provide a final grant report (narrative and budget accounting) at the conclusion of the grant period.
  4. Grantees agree to contribute at least one blog post, webinar or podcast interview during the grant period to the online Digital Impact community at

Open access

Digital Impact Grants are intended to support grantees in developing new learning and tools that the entire social sector can use to improve the safe, ethical, and effective use of data in the digital age. All grantees must agree to make their findings and/or innovations publicly available according to the Open Access policy of the Gates Foundation, which supports Digital Impact.


To apply for a Digital Impact Grant, submit the following materials via our online application:

  • Application Form (closed at 5 PM PT on June 12, 2017). 
  • Project Budget (please use template included in the application form). Budget must include all overhead and indirect costs, and must identify any other sources of funding for this project.
  • CV(s) of core project team member(s)

Deadline: All application materials must be received by 5:00 PM (Pacific Time) on June 12, 2017.


Collaboration: For both grant categories (research and sector), preference will be given to projects that involve one or more nonprofit or civil society organization partners, and that have a clear plan for sharing what they learn or produce.


June 12, 2017 – Deadline to apply (5:00 PM Pacific Time)

September 2017 – Grant recipients notified

February 2018 – Conference at Stanford

Fall 2018 – Grantees present final research and innovations at Stanford


See a list of frequently asked questions and check back regularly as we update it with new information.

Please direct all questions to

Digital Impact will host two live Q&A webinars to answer questions from prospective applicants:

Review the recordings from last year’s Q&A webinars. Please note that some program details discussed in these 2016 webinars have been updated for the 2017 grant cycle and may no longer be accurate. Please read the 2017 RFP closely for current details.

Q&A Webinar #1Click here for audio (mp3, 38 MB) or video download (mp4, 30 MB). Click to view transcript (PDF).

Q&A Webinar #2Click here for audio (mp3, 25 MB) or video download (mp4, 32 MB). Click to view transcript (PDF).

Q&A Webinar #3Click here for audio (mp3, 25 MB) or video download (mp4, 33 MB). Click to view transcript (PDF).

Thank you for your interest in Digital Impact Grants!