The best data resources for UK charities

We highlight some of the best resources for charities to start applying the power of data to their impact, fundraising and everyday operations.

Chloe Green | 5th Apr 19
Image shows abstract data visualisations

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There’s a huge amount of buzz in the non-profit sector right now around how the intelligent use of data can help charities.

Charities have always collected and used data as part of what they do, but it’s only now that the tools and computing resources are becoming available for them to really engage with larger sets of data in a meaningful way.

There is now a general awareness emerging that charities of all sizes can and should be alert to the data they can use to understand their service users’ needs, improve operational effectiveness, understand and showcase their impact and better present information to the public.

In this article we’ve catalogued some of the best data resources for charities, looking at the partners and educational hubs that charities can use to get a step up into the world of data, and some of the best sources of open data to start exploring once they get a grasp on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’.

We’ve included some of the open data sets from our previous article, but with a lot more besides. If you’re interested in general resources for charities around making the most of digital, check out our article ’16 excellent digital resources for charities.’


Data resources for charities

Open Data Institute Founded in 2012 by inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and artificial intelligence expert Sir Nigel Shadbolt, The Open Data Institute is a non-profit organisation that works to encourage open data use, with a wealth of resources such as consultancy and advice services, networking and collaboration opportunities, training, tools and guides.

NPC NPC is a national organisation dedicated to helping charities innovate and drive impact. It has a number of excellent and insightful reports on how charities can harness data, including:

‘The power of Data: is the charity sector ready to plug in?’ 

‘Stories and numbers: collecting the right impact data’

‘Data with destiny: how to turn your charity’s data into meaningful action’

Check out their resources hub for more. They also run initiatives such as the Data Labs programme aimed at opening up Government administrative data to charities.

DataKind UK DataKind is an organisation with chapters globally, aimed at encouraging data use for social good. Through them you ask for help with data ideas and take part in workshops and events that connect charities with the expertise and resources to kick off their data projects.

Data Orchard Data Orchard are dedicated to providing training and advice for charities and other organisations to make the most of data. They carry out data auditing and other practical help for charities, alongside running a number of charity events including the Data4Good conference.

Data Maturity Framework Created by DataKind UK in partnership with Data Orchard, the Data Maturity Framework is a benchmarking tool designed to help charities understand where they are at with their data use, and it completely free to download.

360GivingThis organisation is dedicated to making grantmaking data available to charities and funders in an open, standardised format to help build a better picture of the funding landscape.

NCVOAs part of the NCVO’s ‘Knowhow non-profit’ knowledge bank, charities can access a number of resources, tools, guides and case studies around data use. Check out ‘How to become a data-driven charity’ as a starting point, and their section on analysing data.

Social Charity Digital: Open data for charities  This in-depth report is aimed at introducing the opportunities and challenges of open data for charities, with an overview of the approaches and tools.

Wood for Trees – These charity data specialists run a consultancy service to help charities review their current systems and data structures, and introduce analytics to help gain better insight from the data available to them.


Open data sources for charities

UK Data Service – The UK Data Service claims to be the UK’s largest collection of social, economic and population data resources, including UK census data and government funded surveys. You can browse over 6,000 digital data collections for research and teaching purposes covering an extensive range of key economic and social data, both quantitative and qualitative, and spanning many disciplines and themes.

Office of National Statistics – The ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of national statistics and supplies a large variety of datasets, ranging from business, economy and employment to population and societal data.

National Archives – The National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) collection preserves and provides online access to archived digital datasets and documents from UK central government departments. NDAD spans 40 years of recent history, with the earliest available dataset dating back to about 1963.

London Data Store – This London-centric data bank was created by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as a first step towards freeing London’s data, with the aim of allowing everyone to be able access the data that the GLA and other public sector organisations hold, for free. – Find data published by central government, local authorities and public bodies to help you build products and services.

NHS digital – Formally known as the Health and Social Care Information Centre, NHS Digital has responsibility for standardising, collecting and publishing data and information from across the health and social care system in England. Over a thousand datasets are available on a variety of sobjects from care quality through to population health and the outcome of treatments.

Openly Local  – Launched by the Social Charity Digital, Openly Local provides open UK local authority data from 160 UK councils on 12,000 elected local officials, 8,000 committees, and over 100,000 committee meetings. Its council dashboard shows the distribution of £14 billion of local government spending, between private, public and charitable contractors.

London Datastore – The London Datastore is a free and open data-sharing portal where anyone can access data relating to the capital.  Whether The site provides over 700 datasets to help you understand the city and develop solutions to London’s problems, with topics ranging from employment, transport and environment to housing, health and population stats.

Met Office – On the Met Office website, you can find historic UK climate and weather data from long-running stations, some of which go back 100 years. The pages are updated each month to reflect the latest month’s weather across the UK.

Ordnance Survey – OS open data products (OS OpenData) are a set of digital maps of Great Britain, available for anyone to use, for any purpose. Choose from maps at different detail levels to many different geographical datasets overlaid with information including addresses, postcodes, location names, transport networks, political boundaries, crime and pollution. Ordnance Survey OpenData products are free under the Open Government Licence but they ask that you acknowledge them when using them.

Justice Data Lab – Justice Data Lab is run by a team of analysts at the Ministry of Justice, providing organisations that have worked with offenders and would like to understand the impact of their intervention access to central information on reoffending. The service provides this information to help organisations to assess the impact of their work on reducing reoffending. – This site provides information made available by the Home Office on behalf of police forces in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the British Transport police, such as street-level crime, outcome and stop and search information.

NCVO: Civil Society Almanac – View and download extensive data on the state of the state of the charity sector’s finances.

EU Open Data Portal – Looking further afield, the EU Open Data Portal is a central hub for free open data published by EU institutions and bodies. Subjects range from trade, economics and finance to environment, employment, agriculture, law, politics, education and communication.

Understanding Society Data from the Understanding Society study covers everyone in a household, from children to adults, covering a wide range of themes such as family life, education, employment, finance, health and wellbeing. Anonymised data is exported to create public use files.

Gapminder – Gapminder compiles datasets on numerous categories from a wide range of datasets, aimed at helping people better understand the world at large based on data and not assumptions.

Free Company Data Product The Free Company Data Product is a downloadable data snapshot containing basic company data of live companies on the Companies House register. Companies House is now part of the Public Data Group (with Met Office, Ordnance Survey and Land Registry), which was set up to maximise the value of the data held by member organisations and make it available free of charge.

Registry of Open Data on AWSThis registry exists to help people discover and share datasets that are available via AWS resources. You can find scientific, geographic, satellite and space datasets among others.

World Health Organisation – The WHO data repository is a gateway to the world’s health-related statistics and datasets across 194 countries and can be categorised by country or theme (there are over 35).

Humanitarian Data Exchange – Managed by the Centre for Humanitarian Data, the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) is an open platform for sharing data across crises and organisations. Launched in July 2014, the goal of HDX is to make humanitarian data easy to find and use for analysis.

IMF Data – The International Monetary Fund publishes data on international finances, debt rates, foreign exchange reserves, commodity prices and investments.

Shelter Housing Databank – The Shelter Housing Databank brings together government data on housing need, supply, affordability and other issues at a local, regional and national level. You can view the data as a table or graph, or download it for further analysis.

Google Dataset Search – This little known Google function allows you to search for literally any set of data currently openly available.

Google Trends – Find out what people are searching for on Google.