Two academics who set out to analyze government grants to nonprofit organizations found that the databases housing that information continue to resist easy use.
The federal government posts onto USAspending.gov data on awards and sub-awards (grants of federal dollars made by an intermediary such as a state government), but when Jesse Lecy of Georgia State University and Jeremy Thornton of Samford University attempted to study 2012 data, they found significant data limitations.
In a Nov. 25 paper, the two academics say their first hurdle was to identify nonprofits within data sets about recipients of federal money, a task made difficult by the fact that the Federal Assistance Award Data System and the Federal Procurement Data System record entities according to DUNS numbers. The Internal Revenue Service tracks entities according to EIN numbers.
Having access to EINs was important to the researchers, since they wanted to match USAspending.gov data taken from FAADS and FPDS to nonprofit financial information held by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, which uses the publicly available EINs as its database unique identifier. The center classifies charities according to the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities; correlating federal recipients to their NTEE major category would allow the researchers to identify which sectors receive the most federal support.
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