Serving Communities Better Through a Collaborative Data Lens

The 6-member Frederick Funders Group—including the Community Foundation of Frederick County (MD), United Way of Frederick County, Frederick County Government, and three private foundations—came together in 2016 with the belief that, by working together, they could be better grantmakers, create efficiencies for their area’s nonprofits, and have more confidence they are serving their community well.

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First they implemented GuideStar for Grant Applications (G4G), which allows a nonprofit to transfer information from its GuideStar profile to its grant applications. The funders chose a half-dozen standard fields to include in the “core” of each application they set out to create.

They quickly realized G4G is only a timesaver if nonprofits have up-to-date GuideStar profiles. This led to a training partnership with GuideStar to help area nonprofits improve their profiles—the goal being for each nonprofit to move up one “seal” of transparency.

“Ultimately, we hope to be able to measure how we, as a group, have moved the needle in one or more areas of need in the community.”

Each training was sponsored by at least two funders and supported by the group as a whole. By collaborating, the group was able to show their grantees that partnerships and collaboration were not just a passing idea. Essentially, these funders “practice what they preach.”

The group also decided to look at their collective funding data to better understand the funding landscape in Frederick, MD. They sought to create a framework that could easily be updated in future years to provide a view of funding patterns over time, rather than just a one-time snapshot. They wanted to use the data and analysis to better understand how to support their community partners moving forward.

Because all are Foundant users, the group was able to work with their respective Client Success Managers to set up consistent reports across their six grants management databases, allowing them to export the data in a consistent manner. The group is still making adjustments to allow for a more detailed analysis, and will soon overlay the data with the community foundation’s forthcoming community needs assessment.

Although their collaborative efforts have unfolded slowly, and they understand big changes won’t come overnight, the group feels that pooling resources to help area nonprofits, particularly those most of them fund, is the right direction.

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