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Aspen Institute Releases Report on IRS Form 990 Data: “Information For Impact”

Cover 990 Report AspenMarkets For Good, Curator’s Note

The nonprofit sector is on the front-lines, working to solve the toughest social problems. But, perhaps the first problem to solve today is an internal one: upgrading our data practices. On airplanes we are strongly advised to put our individual oxygen masks on first, before attempting to help anyone else. Open Data is an oxygen mask of sorts.

This release of “Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data” is not only a call for Open Data, but a material step forward in our collective attempt to liberate social sector data from dormant silos and non-communicating formats.

Data transparency and public access to read, interpret, and experiment with data is fuel for intelligent allocation of resources (e.g. by providing some insight into who’s funding what and where) and discovery of new ways to attack problems. While it is clearly flawed to treat better data as a stand-alone solution, (as opposed to a tool to use), if we lack better tools, the prospect of solving problems is a non-starter.

Cinthia Schuman Ottinger, Deputy Director for Philanthropy Programs at the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation (PSI), highlights the new possibilities: “It’s imperative that we work with current and high-quality information about nonprofit groups. The Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project presents groundbreaking research on the Form 990, providing new ideas for getting nonprofit data out to the public. The report details how downloading, analyzing, mashing up, visualizing, and providing access to the most currently available nonprofit data may lead to innovations that we cannot even imagine.”

Study the report and let us know your thoughts here below in the comments, especially if you’re working with Form 990.