Jewish Funders Network, impala to launch database partnership
Subscriptions to impala’s database of foundations and nonprofits — numbering in the millions — will be available free of charge to JFN members and their grantees
Shahar Brukner was a student at the Harvard Kennedy School, getting his master’s degree in public policy analysis, when he started his own nonprofit, a fellowship that aimed to bring financial resources to Israeli students studying in the U.S. But in order to do that, Brukner had to raise the money.
“Right from the beginning, there’s so many difficulties that fundraisers face in this world around basic questions,” Brukner told eJewishPhilanthropy last week. “Like, ‘What funders care about what I’m doing? How could I get to know about them? How can I connect with them? Are there any other nonprofits that are doing what I’m doing? Maybe I can collaborate with them?’ Answering these questions took a lot of time. It was extremely hard and [there was] nothing [in terms of] really centralized data in one place.”
So Brukner, alongside co-founders Simon Dickson, a HKS classmate, and Tom Huberman, an alum of the IDF’s elite 8200 intelligence unit, set out to create a solution.
What resulted was impala, a platform that serves as a database for publicly available data on millions of foundations and nonprofits. The platform scrapes details from the IRS 990 forms — mandatory paperwork for U.S.-based nonprofits — as well as the websites and annual reports of nonprofits and foundations.
Impala came out of “the idea of creating a network platform for the nonprofit sector — one place where every nonprofit and every foundation and every funder can get the information that they need to understand [what] this sector looks like,” Brukner explained.
The platform will launch its partnership with the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) on Wednesday. Brukner had shown JFN leadership an early demonstration of how impala works, and, he said, “it was clear” from the initial conversations that there existed the potential for collaboration.
“We were starting to build impala and build it with basically two user communities,” Brukner explained. “So certain people working in nonprofits, mostly fundraisers. And then the other side, certain people that are working either in philanthropic foundations or with funders, people who decide how to deploy philanthropic money, and we wanted to make sure that we basically built something that would serve both sides.”
When it launches this week, more than 20,000 entities — all JFN members and their grantees, both Jewish and non-Jewish — will receive free access to impala’s premium edition for two years. Support for the project came from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Glazer Foundation, DARE Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network’s board chair, Marcia Riklis, who collectively are providing $525,000 over two years.
“With impala, we finally have visibility into the entire Jewish philanthropic sector and can better understand JFN’s place in it, reveal opportunities for collaboration and unite everyone — Jewish foundations and nonprofits — in one place,” Riklis said in a statement.
The platform — basic use of which is free; a premium subscription is also available — essentially simplifies the process of looking into a foundation or nonprofit’s financials, and allows users to gain a fuller understanding of how a foundation chooses to distribute money, and how nonprofits use the funds they receive. One section breaks down a foundation’s giving by year, so that users can see the amount of time grantees have been in a foundation’s portfolio; another section compiles data on the year-over-year changes in a foundation’s giving, for example, how many consecutive years the foundation gives to its grantees.
A separate tab allows users to see which different foundations have overlapping funding interests.
“It brings us into the digital age,” Ari Rudolph, JFN’s vice president of philanthropic engagement, told eJP. “This type of platform — the technology has existed in the for-profit world, when it hasn’t really in the nonprofit world. Now things will change.”
The platform itself was built by a team spanning three continents, and included staff in Ukraine and Israel. In addition to centralizing information available on publicly available documents and websites, impala’s profiles are synced up across the platform. For example, when a user pulls up the impala profile of a foundation, it can see the full list of that foundation’s grantees. By clicking on a grantee name, the software will further break down the nature of the received grants, and give users the ability to navigate directly to that grantee’s impala page, which has its own financial data. Search features can be whittled down by location and areas of focus.
“Everything speaks with each other,” Brukner explained.