June 5, 2011; Source: Hartford Business Journal | The Hartford Business Journal reports that the Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority has selected the University of Connecticut’s Nonprofit Leadership Program to develop and oversee the “Connecticut Data Collaborative,” to be an online resource for nonprofit staff, state policy-makers and the general public to document nonprofit economic impact. According to David Garvey, executive director of the UConn program, the target date for completion is 2013 and the estimated annual maintenance cost for the new online platform is 5,000.

In its final form, the site will be a searchable resource that runs off mapping technology and will enable researchers to not only identify the nonprofits that are working in specific communities but also to evaluate their impact and performance based on information provided in 990s. Responding to his sense of whether nonprofits would be hesitant to share this kind of financial information in the new tool, Garvey said, “The way we look at this is it is public information, and we have to look at the harsh realities of Connecticut. The 990 is one number taken at a point in time; it’s not the complete story of a nonprofit. It’s low hanging fruit, so let’s get that out there.” Still, he added, “Do we want to add more data? More quantitative data? Yes.”

Ron Cretaro, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, noted that particularly for small nonprofit organizations “that are narrowly focused and tend to fly under the radar,” of donors and policy makers, the new system will be a tremendous asset. “We’ll be able to demonstrate the economic impact of nonprofits,” he said. “We’ve been hungry for this kind of information to all be pulled together. It’s an achievement of collaboration.”

Similarly, Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, told the Business Journal that the new resource sounded “promising.” She added, “It’s not for not wanting to, but a lot of nonprofits are busy putting out fires and keeping our heads above water. A platform like this could be really beneficial because you’re able to go to one place.” —Anne Eigeman