I’ve been working on a project that has required a lot of time in the Foundation Center’s online databases (both for grant makers and grants). The Foundation Directory Online, as noted on the Foundation Center’s website, provides detailed information about more than 95,000 U.S. foundations and corporate donors and 1.7 million grants. Two issues have come up recently and only came to light after some significant inquiries, which I wanted to review here and seek some guidance on.
One, the Foundation Center has a policy — unpublished as best I can tell — to remove records after a period of 5 years. In this case, the historical data for what is commonly considered to be the online encyclopedia for grant makers and grants only goes back to 2003. Once the 2009 is complete and final, that data will be removed from the database accessible to subscribers (deep down, I’m hoping the Center is keeping the data and not outright deleting it).
Two, the Foundation Center has a policy (again, unpublished) to remove records of founders that have closed operations or merged. Thus, historical records of grants issues by the Peninsula Community Foundation and the Community Foundation Silicon Valley prior to their landmark merger in 2006 do not exist. Nor does the Foundation Center have any records of the Beldon Fund’s grant making activities; apparently, once it closed its doors the Beldon Fund’s records were removed. In Beldon’s last year of grant making (2008) it awarded nearly $10M in funds. The only historical record of those transactions is now on the Beldon Fund website.
So, my questions are:
1. Where should one go now for historical grantmaking data both for grants issues beyond five years ago and for institutions that are not longer in operation?
2. Why does the Foundation Center have these policies in place?
3. Why is the Foundation Center not more transparent about these practices?
Tags: Foundation Center, Taxonomy, Data, Grants, History
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