Data as a Conversation Starter – How to Use Data to Inform Grantmaking Strategy

Data as a Conversation Starter – How to Use Data to Inform Grantmaking Strategy

Blog Post
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Philanthropy Southwest’s “Using Data to Inform Grantmaking Strategy” seminar featured a discussion among a panel of experts in order to identify and assess strategies for using data to maximize impact in philanthropic giving. Moderated by Kathy Jankowski (Jankowski & Associates), the consultant who conducted the research for Philanthropy Southwest’s 3rd Annual Giving Study, the panel included:

Adrian Cook, director of research and evaluations at The Rees-Jones Foundation (Dallas, TX)

Eusebio Diaz, vice president of Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio (San Antonio, TX)

Sarah Kinser, chief program officer at Arkansas Community Foundation (Little Rock, AR)

“If you can give to anything, how do you choose what?” Sarah Kinser posed to the group of member participants. Data, she said, can be a powerful tool to help foundations navigate that very question. But while data is critical to understanding both community needs and how grantmaking can most effectively and efficiently meet those needs, obtaining and maintaining it costs time, energy and money. Therefore, it is important to identify resources – sometimes even readily available – that can help, and not unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Kinser recommended utilizing available tools, such as Philanthropy Southwest’s Giving Study, in order to understand needs, maximize resource allocation and increase overall impact.

“It comes down to relationships,” added Adrian Cook. Data informs trends in funding and where the gaps are so that foundations can focus on those gaps, but understanding the people and nonprofits behind the data is also crucial. “It’s not just enough to say we’re serving X number of people, but are the services making a difference in people’s lives?”

Data can also help facilitate connection among funding partners. Eusebio Diaz shared an anecdote from his experience using funding data from Philanthropy Southwest’s Giving Study to analyze a particularly underserved area of San Antonio. His foundation asked, “Who else is funding this region?” in order to identify potential strategic partnerships with other grantmakers in the area so that philanthropic giving could better align with needs in the community.

Increasingly, data is changing the conversations around what to fund and how to best fund it. We are grateful to Philanthropy Southwest members who shared their experience and expertise about how data can foster improved innovation, efficacy and collaboration in grantmaking to best serve our communities and region. To access data from our Giving Study to help inform your grantmaking, click here.

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