Top 10 free sources of data for charities

According to this year’s Charity Digital Skills report, two thirds of charities want to get more from their data.

This report also found that using data more effectively is among the top digital priorities for charities over the next 12 months.

Better understanding users, proving impact and designing new services are just some of the ways the National Council for Voluntary Organisations lists as improvements for charities through better use of data.

Given the benefits of being a data driven charity, it is no wonder charities are keen to improve this area of their organisation.

To help there is a raft of open data sets charities can use with their own impact reporting data to better understand the value of their work. This includes health data, demographic statistic and even information on the weather.

Here we list ten of the best sources of free to use and open data charities can access.

UK Data Service

The UK Data Service offers charities free access to around 7,000 collections of data. This ranges from population data to social and economic information. It is used by think tanks, foundations, government organisations and charities, due to the wide range of data available.

The service is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and also offers updates on access to data amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 data for charities and funders

This free to use data set has been created by think tank New Philanthropy Capital and the Health Foundation to help charities better gauge the affect of Covid-19 on beneficiaries.

This includes gathering latest demographic statistics on age as well health from other sets of data, including the Office of National Statistics and Public Health England. The Covid-19 data for charities and funders brings together pandemic specific data in one data set for charities to use to assess the impact of the health crisis on beneficiaries and predict any future spikes in demand.

Office of National Statistics

The Office of National Statistics is the key source of data collection used by the UK government on a range of issues, covering population, the economy, household income and employment.

It is the largest independent producer of official statistics and also conducts the census for England and Wales every 10 years. Other major data projects it is involved in include the online household study and the data science campus. This has been established to investigate the use of new data sources “for the public good”.

Public Health England

From cancer to dementia and children’s wellbeing to inequality, Public Health England has an array of useful data for all charities.

Among its most recent data releases looked at infection rates for flu and Covid-19 in relation to flu vaccine.

It offers a range of analysis tools for charities to use, covering specific health conditions, lifestyle risk factors as well as issues such as deprivation, the environment and housing.

NHS Digital

Covid-19 has ramped up charities need to access health data. As well as Public Health England’s information NHS Digital offers a raft of information for charities to better understand the health of their beneficiaries. It contains more than 1,000 sets of data, looking at treatments as well as health of the population.

NHS Digital provides health information for health commissioners, clinicians and others in healthcare.

Typical data includes information on Covid-19 symptons reported by the public. It also has a General Practice Data Hub, involving interactive dashboards covering general practice information England such as their workforce and patient registrations.

A Mental Health Data Hub is another useful source of data available through NHS Digital.

Met Office

Whether looking to stage an event outdoors or working to protect the environment, information on climate is vital for all charities. The Met Office’s website also includes historic data on the UK climate, dating back 100 years. This can be useful when assessing whether particular events were influenced by the weather.

Environmental charities are likely to be the key sector to use this open data set. This includes historic station data and ‘Midas-Open’, an open access archive of UK weather data.

London Datastore

This free source of data is peoduced by the Greater London Authority and includes approximately 6,000 sets of data, from the capital’s key public sector organisations. This includes Transport for London, the London Fire Brigade and Office of National Statistics information. The London Datastore is ideal for charities working in London wanting to gather data around transport, work, the environment, housing and other demographic statistics.

Ordnance Survey

Providing data to stakeholders and supporters in an eye-catching way is crucial, especially online. This is where the Ordnance Survey (OS) can help offering open data products featuring a raft of digital maps of Great Britain for a range of purposes. This can map transport links, pollution as well as political boundaries.

The OS OpenData sets can be accessed here for free, with no registration required.

Justice Data Lab

Charities working in the fields of criminal justice and youth justice are advised to use the Ministry of Justice’s Justice Data Lab. This offers regular reports on rehabilitation and can be useful to organisations looking to prove the impact of their work, The justice data available covers England and Wales. Tailored reports assessing the impact of rehabilitation programmes are also available.

Google Cloud Public Datasets

Search engine giant Google offers around 200 public data sets covering a raft of sectors and countries. Health, education and crime are among the issues covered in its data sets.

Public datasets are free to use for users looking to access up to 1 TB a month of queries. Costs apply to further searches each month.

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