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2016 Request for Proposal (Closed)

The application for the 2017 grants cycle will open in mid-April. Check back soon.


Markets for Good improves the data infrastructure for social good. We share ideas and support innovation to advance the safe, ethical, and effective use of digital data in, about, and for a higher impact social sector. We accomplish this in three ways:

  • An online community: We facilitate the online exchange of expert and practical data-related knowledge through a robust online community at, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.
  • Events: We host in-person events that foster knowledge sharing and ideation for the community, as well as cross-sector information sharing between public and private sector partners, and research on emerging issues.
  • Grants: We foster research and innovation on the role of digital data and infrastructure to improve decision-making in philanthropy (particularly individual giving) and in the social sector writ large.

Markets for Good is hosted by the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS).


Markets for Good is launching two new grant programs focused on the role of digital data and infrastructure to improve decision-making in philanthropy (particularly individual giving) and in the social sector writ large. Grants will be awarded for two types of projects: scholarly research and practical innovations. 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.

This is the first year of this program, and we intend to run at least two more cycles of grants in future years. We are committed to supporting cohorts of grantees and connecting them to the broader Markets for Good and Digital Civil Society Lab communities. We also 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 well. 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.

Research grants might include topics like the following (please note: this is only a partial list of ideas to prime your thinking):

  • Evaluate the potential applications/benefits of data standards within a specific segment (e.g. homelessness, legal services, community health, etc.) of social sector work
  • What is the current practice for sharing data from crowdfunding platforms, what do they report and when, and what accountability practices/data access policies would best serve the public interest?
  • What legal and technical strategies exist for making algorithmically-informed decisions accountable to the public or beyond the walls of individual institutions? What examples exist of good practice and what are the benefits/limitations to these practices?
  • Conduct a market landscape of data collection tools that are privacy preserving and assess the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Research and design practices for algorithmic transparency or community-based governance and oversight of data assets

Potential topics for innovation grants include (please note: this is only a partial list of ideas to prime your thinking):

  • Development and/or field testing of tools that teach others in civil society to better use data or that create and implement shared data standards
  • Conduct experiments on donors’ use of digital data as a decision factor in their giving
  • Prototype a weighted index that draws together multiple types of private resources being used for public benefit, including impact investing, charitable giving, political contributions, and consumer spending
  • Prototype an evaluation using propensity testing and a data repository and share cautions, successes, and lessons learned
  • Develop an industry-informed standard for public reporting of data from crowdfunding platforms
  • Develop a shared repository and system for committing/forking civil society data governance policies (e.g. using or github)
  • Create, prototype, and report on resources to improve digital data literacy among nonprofits and donors


Research grants will be made to faculty or graduate students at accredited universities in the United States. An affiliation with Stanford is preferred, but not required. Transnational research teams must apply for funding to a U.S.-based university. 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.

Innovation grants will be made to 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States or transnational/cross-sector teams that include a 501(c)(3) that can serve as the grant recipient and fiscal manager. Priority for these grants will be to teams that include more than one organization and that have a clear plan for sharing what they learn or produce.


Amount: We have a total funding pool of $200,000. 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 2016 and ending Fall 2017.

Disbursement: Funds will be disbursed in two tranches, with half of the funds being transferred to grantees at the beginning of the grant period, in Fall 2016, and the other half being transferred halfway through the one-year grant period, in approximately May 2017. 

Requirements: All work must be done with the expectation of being publicly shared and geared toward improving practice in the field. We hope the first round of grantees will inform the grants program, Markets for Good community, and field at large over time and intend to provide numerous opportunities for network building and idea sharing.

Participation & contribution:

  1. Grantees will be invited to participate in the Do Good Data conference at Stanford as an opportunity to meet other grantees, the broader community, and kickstart their projects. The conference will be held at Stanford in February 2017. Stanford will make arrangements to cover the costs of the conference for all grantees.
  2. Grantees are expected to provide a demonstration/presentation of their work to the MFG community in the Fall of 2017 (date to be determined).
  3. Grantees will provide Stanford with a final grant report (narrative and budget accounting) at the conclusion of the grant period.
  4. Grantees agree to contribute at least one submission to the online Markets for Good community in the form of a blog post, Q&A, or video at

Open access:

Good Data 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 Markets for Good.


To apply for a Good Data Grant, submit the following materials via our online application:

  • Application Form 
  • Project Budget (one page)
    • Budget must include all overhead and indirect costs, and any other sources of funding for this project.
    • Do not include projected travel costs for the Do Good Data conference and presentation to MFG Community — Stanford PACS will cover these costs.
    • Please note that selected grantees will be required to submit a detailed “budget narrative” that justifies this preliminary budget statement.
  • CV(s) of core project team member(s)

Deadline: All application materials must be received by 5:00 PM (Pacific time) on September 30, 2016.


Collaboration: For both grant categories (research and innovation), preference will be given to projects that involve one or more nonprofit or civil society organization partners.


September 30, 2016       Deadline to apply
November 18, 2016 Grantees announced
February 2017 Do Good Data conference at Stanford
Fall 2017 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 Laura Seaman, Markets for Good Program Manager, at

Review the recordings from our three Good Data Grants webinars, which included live Q&As with potential applicants:

August 10 — Click here for audio (mp3, 38 MB) or video download (mp4, 30 MBClick to view transcript (PDF)

August 29 — Click here for audio (mp3, 25 MB) or video download (mp4, 32 MB) Click to view transcript (PDF)

September 20 — Click here for audio (mp3, 25 MB) or video download (mp4, 33 MB) Click to view transcript (PDF)

Thank you for your interest in Good Data Grants.