Creating community data tools for local impact: Piton Foundation

Amy Gahran at Knight Digital Media Center: “Many local funders focus on providing grants and doing fundraising to support local organizations and projects. However, some local funders also directly operate their own programs to serve the local community.
This November in the Denver metro area, the Piton Foundation will launch a major revamp of their Community Factsonline database of neighborhood-level community statistics. This resource is designed to help Denver-area nonprofits, researchers, community organizers and others better understand and serve communities in need.
Although Piton serves Denver-area communities, it’s not a community foundation in the traditional sense. Piton is a private, operating foundation established in the 1970s with a mission to improve the lives of Colorado’s low-income children and their families. Recently, Piton became part of Gary Community Investments(GCI) — an organization that invests directly in for-profit and philanthropic organizations, projects and programs to benefit Colorado’s low-income children and their families. Originally Piton focused on serving only the city and county of Denver, but since Piton joined GCI, they’ve expanded their focus to serving communities across the entire seven-county Denver metro area.
Back in 1991, Piton took the then-unusual step of forming its own Data Initiative. This early “open government” effort gained access to local datasets, cleaned them up, and made this data available to organizations serving low-income Denver communities. By opening and democratizing local data, and putting it in the context of local neighborhoods, Piton empowered local organizations to do more for local families in need. Such data can help organizations better target programs or fundraising efforts, or better understand local needs and trends in ways that enhance the services they offer.
In 2011, Piton’s Data Initiative expanded, adding projects like the Colorado Data Engine — an open source online data repository of neighborhood-scale public data in a standardized, geolocated format. The development of this data engine was supported by funding from the Knight Foundation and the Denver Foundation….”