As Long As We’re At It, What If…

Over here at the Walter & Elise Haas Fund we’re porting over a website from Cold Fusion (the architecture, not the hypothetical nuclear reaction) to WordPress.  Our partners in crime are the folks at Mission Minded, the branding firm that works exclusively with nonprofits.  The planning talks were going smoothly when I suddenly had an idea:

What if…

at the moment we put in the effort to rewrite our searchable grants database that lived on our old site…

we wrote it so it the data was machine-readable by leading open data initiatives, such as hGrant?

You know…

Like a WordPress plugin.  As simple as Click. Activate.  Join the ranks of real-time, open data grants data publishers.

We talked about how how a tool like this, if kept simple, could give us an incredibly low bar for participation in what has heretofore been two difficult games in our shop:

  1. Building and maintaining a searchable grants database on our website. Depending on the web architecture, the source of data (might that be an intractable grants management system?) and the staffing, we spent a lot of time and money developing a web app that grantseekers and media could browse and learn from, and we spend a lot of time and money making sure that app continues to work as web technology, and the way we talk about our grants, changes. Keeping just two years of past grantmaking data out at involves a lot of effort.
  2. Making our grants data to larger initiatives that aggregate giving data to chart philanthropic impact.
    Even when we have searchable grants on the web, we know it’s not being presented in a way that can be easily used by others, for example, the Foundation Center’s Reporting Commitment.  Our taxonomies are different, our HTML syntax is different, we’re focusing on different data types… it’s discouraging enough that we haven’t joined that initiative, despite its potential.

Might work. A lot of devil in the details ahead.

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