Boston Foundation to Shutter Giving Common Database

August 8, 2019 — The Boston Foundation recently announced that it will shut down its Giving Common, a free, public, online database launched nearly eight years ago to help donors learn more about nonprofits while supporting the marketing efforts of organizations seeking grants.

The Giving Common, which annually required $200,000 in technology and staff support to operate, will close at the end of this month.

The Boston Foundation (TBF) in an online post said the goal of the Giving Common—to "create a centralized hub for the due diligence data that funders and donors ask for over and over—was only partially fulfilled."

Despite delivering some positive results, such as providing TBF staffers with a comprehensive source of information on local nonprofits, it said its "original hope of partnering with other funders to fund and improve the platform never materialized.

"Though we often learned of funders using it in their grant-making processes from the nonprofit applicants themselves, the open nature of the platform made it incredibly difficult to track usage by other funders specifically."

It added that "despite these successes and an annual $200,000 investment from the Boston Foundation for technology and staffing, there was a sense that the Giving Common’s benefits were diminishing."

TBF required nonprofits seeking Impact Area Grants or Open Door Grants to have a Giving Common profile. It will no longer require a Giving Common profile for those grant programs, but said will collect certain information, such board/staff demographic data.

Nonprofits can request to transfer their Giving Common profile information to their profile, but need to request the transfer by Aug. 12.

Nonprofits will be able to access their profile information on Giving Common through Aug. 31, after which time it will be deleted and no longer available.

TBF advised nonprofits to reach out to donors who make recurring gifts to them through the Giving Common.

Nearly 1,300 nonprofits published profiles on the site, according to TBF, providing in-depth information about their programs, staff and board leadership, organizational needs, and their financial history and health.

However, there is upward of 40,000 nonprofits in Massachusetts, most with fewer than 25 employees. Since those smaller organizations mostly focus their scarce resources on delivering programs and services, they could not dedicate staff to completing the comprehensive Giving Common database, putting more onus on TBF staff.

TBF said, "To the understandable aggravation of many nonprofits, these comprehensive profiles took a long time to fill out and keep updated."

Many nonprofits reportedly needed to draw heavily on TBF staff time to complete their profiles.

"While many nonprofits said they find value in communicating their stories through their profiles, we also heard that the Giving Common profiles no longer aligned with those from GuideStar, and were a major time-suck and disruption for nonprofits," TBF said.

In addition, TBF said funders "told us they were increasingly looking to national platforms for due diligence or customize their internal review processes, "making out-of-the-box solutions less valuable, and that Giving Common profiles were not reliably up-to-date."