What We Do

Charitable Sector Support

Strategy Overview

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OUR GOAL:

To empower the growing charitable sector with knowledge, tools, and a supportive policy environment to unlock more resources, invest more effectively, and achieve greater impact around the world.

The Challenge

At A Glance

Nonprofits and donors often struggle to find useful data and information that can help them enhance their impact.

Government policies and regulations can create impediments to efficient and effective charitable work and prevent resources from flowing to where they’re needed most.

The foundation works with partners to harness the power of data, technology, and new standards and practices to build a stronger, smarter charitable sector.

We also support research and advocacy efforts to ensure that policy debates and policy decisions about the charitable sector are informed by the best available information and analysis.

Our Charitable Sector strategy is led by Darin McKeever, deputy director, and is part of the foundation’s Global Policy & Advocacy Division.

Every year, the charitable sector—along with partners in business and government¬—devotes billions of dollars and countless hours to addressing complex problems and improving people’s lives around the globe. But information gaps and policy barriers often prevent resources from flowing to where they’re needed most and can lead to duplicative and wasteful efforts.

Nonprofits and donors often struggle to find useful data and information that can help them enhance their impact. Collecting information to inform decision making can be cumbersome, expensive, and time consuming, and the data that becomes available is often too outdated to be helpful. The lack of seamless systems for sharing information among donors and nonprofits also prevents resources from reaching the most promising programs and solutions and hinders collaboration among organizations.

Government policymakers also need better information about the sector so they can make informed decisions that facilitate giving and support efficient and effective charitable efforts.

The Opportunity

Several key developments are creating opportunities for charitable organizations to have greater impact.

New technology tools and social media are reducing barriers to collaboration and inspiring new approaches to collecting, sharing, and using information. These advances are also amplifying the voices of people who receive services and benefits, which can help donors and nonprofits improve their programs and create better ones.

Foundation employees volunteering at a food bank in Seattle.

The sector is also seeing record numbers of new donors and volunteers, as well as the rise of impact investing and new types of social enterprises. This growth has been accompanied by the emergence of new kinds of affinity groups and advisors and new ways to pool funds, facilitate giving, and inform strategy.

In some emerging economies, policymakers are looking at ways to encourage philanthropy and improve its effectiveness. Even simple policy changes can eliminate roadblocks for donors and charities and thereby release more resources into the sector.

Our Strategy

The Charitable Sector Support program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with partners to harness the power of data, technology, and policy advocacy—along with best practices in philanthropy, nonprofits, and business—to build a stronger, smarter charitable sector.

A demography surveillance team member uses a GPS device during a field visit in Malavela village, Mozambique.

One of our priorities is to work in partnership with others to help build an information infrastructure—including technological tools and improved norms and standards—to facilitate data collection and sharing. We believe that more and better data, broadly distributed—and the desire and know-how to use it—will ultimately increase insight about impact, effectiveness, and the needs and assets of communities around the globe. This infrastructure can help make giving easier and more effective, help nonprofit leaders manage for greater impact, and empower community members to have more say in the programs and services they receive.

We also support research and advocacy efforts to ensure that policy debates and policy decisions about the charitable sector are informed by the best available information and analysis.

Finally, we support and participate in organizations within the sector that promote knowledge sharing and collaboration. Through these relationships, we learn and connect the foundation with a wide variety of knowledgeable partners to share ideas, improve the quality of our work, and deepen our impact.

Areas of Focus

Information Infrastructure

We work with our partners to test early-stage solutions for sharing information across platforms, facilitating the flow of information and resources in the charitable sector, and opening up government data about the sector for public use.

Our efforts to make visible “who funds what where” include collaborating with other major foundations to make grantmaking information publicly available on a real-time basis and in a standardized format that is compatible with rapidly evolving international standards. We are also working with leading providers of data about the charitable sector to create a data infrastructure and basic building blocks—such as unique identifiers for nonprofit organizations—that will connect and reconcile disparate data sources.

We fund research on donor behavior and preferences as well as on how government data about U.S. nonprofit organizations can be shared more transparently and efficiently within the sector, and we support discussions about how the sector generates, shares, and acts on data and information.

Policy and Advocacy

Participants in a panel discussion about polio eradication at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi in 2013.

We work to educate leaders about the charitable sector and advocate for informed policies that facilitate giving, allow the sector to operate more efficiently, and allow resources to flow across borders and reach the people who need them.

We also fund policy research and support groups that monitor policy developments and trends that affect charitable activity around the world.

Memberships and Conference Sponsorships

We play an active role in organizations that are dedicated to enhancing the work of grantmakers and grantseekers. Our involvement provides us with a wealth of knowledge from the field and allows our staff to continually develop their skills and share with their peers.

Our team also collaborates with like-minded funders to support conferences that spark conversations and collaboration around innovative solutions.

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