Using Technology to Reduce Burdens of Grantee Reporting

As foundations strive to become more accountable and transparent about what they are achieving with their tax-exempt endowments, they are adopting practices to measure the impact of their grants, which in turn requires measuring the impact of their grantees’ work. Because each foundation typically has distinct goals it is trying to achieve, grantees often must report on a host of different measures for different funders. All of this results in a vicious cycle of paperwork.

Project Streamline, a group of eight prominent organizations representing grantmakers and grantees, recently published a report examining this phenomenon called “Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose.” It is the beginning of a year-long conversation the group will lead about how to improve the gathering of grant information for a “stronger, more effective sector.”

One development that might be particularly promising in this regard is the Cultural Data Project, which was developed and is overseen by a group of Pennsylvania funding agencies. It is described by the Pew Charitable Trusts as “a standardized, statewide, Web-based data-collection system for arts and culture organizations.” Basically, it functions as a centralized place where arts and culture organizations provide data that multiple funders need. But not only does it provide the funders with data – each organization also is able to access the aggregated data of its peers. The project has begun a national expansion, and it may provide a model for other fields.

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