Social Entrepreneur API

The Social Entrepreneur API from Social Actions launched at the SoCap Conference. The Social Entrepreneur API (Application Programming Interface) is the first open database of information about social entrepreneurs who have won fellowships and awards from social enterprise funders. The current API includes awards made by Civic Ventures, The Draper Richards Foundation, ideablob, PopTech, The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, and The Skoll Foundation.

We live in a world with literally millions of nonprofits and many, many individuals working on social benefit projects that are not registered nonprofits. Shifting through these organizations is a daunting task for any donor. But luckily, there are thousands of foundations and other grantmaking entities with paid staff doing just this work. Unlike in for-profit markets where possession of important information helps secure profits, in philanthropy, sharing important information increases a grantmaker’s impact.

What’s interesting about the Social Entrepreneur API, as I’ve written before, is the way it allows for anyone to access a stream of vetted social entrepreneurs and mash the data up however they like. For instance, Tactical Philanthropy Advisors could build a web interface that displayed vetted grantmaking opportunities that took the API data and then limited the data to projects in need of at least $25,000 so that our high net worth clients would be delivered a pool of eligible, vetted social entrepreneurs that we could then help them look into more deeply.

Knowing that the Draper Richards Foundation or Skoll has funded someone does not automatically make them a good grantee. But it certainly helps to search for organizations within a universe of groups that have already been vetted by well resourced, smart funders.

How else might Tactical Philanthropy Advisors or other organizations use the Social Entrepreneur API?


  1. I think tools like this are great and can be used by a variety of philanthropists and advisors in narrowing down a large universe of opportunity. Many of these will be great projects, but fit with a philanthropist is my question. And maybe that’s where the advisor comes in with a deeper knowledge of their client and their philosophy and values. For many philanthropists that are looking to make big commitments, their advisor can be their guide. I think there’s nothing better than to be able to match a client with a project they can (as a philanthropist friend put it) “walk through life with ….”

  2. I think that’s right Maryann. Technology offers great tools, but human connections are still critical. That’s why we’re building the Tactical Philanthropy Knowledge Network as a human-centered project and why we think philanthropy advice is best delivered in the context of a relationship with a trusted advisor.

    But tech tools, are incredibly useful way to shrink the universe into manageable pieces!

  3. Absolutely. Hopefully this would be a precursor to people getting out of the boardroom and into the field to experience the amazing adventure philanthropy can be. Look forward to continuing the conversation; now I step into a conference call with a contact in the Maasai Mara. Old fashioned technology still works too.

  4. Maryann, I love your response and hope you’re right — that the Social Entrepreneur API will bring more people “into the field” of philanthropy. Finding the right fit with a philanthropist will always be a human-centered endeavor. Not surprisingly, I agree with Sean that providing as much information about a social entrepreneur as possible — including the groups that have supported them in the past, as well as details about the work they’re doing and the impact they’re having — can be really beneficial. Sean, your description of a web interface that draws from the Social Entrepreneur API is exactly what the organizations participating in this project want to see – that, and hundreds more, all filtering and distributing whatever data is most relevant for a particular audience.

    In its current form, the Social Entrepreneur API can already help a philanthropist find someone on the basis of their geographic location, the issues they address, the demographics of those whose lives they impact, and a range of other factors. We’ve heard from a range of individuals and organizations interested in using the API to find a particular subset of entrepreneurs.

    The API will also continue to develop both in terms of the award and fellowship programs that participate as well as the information provided about each social entrepreneur. As it does, it will become increasingly helpful to those who want to find a particular kind of social entrepreneur AND better understand the field as a whole – activity, funding, impact, the whole gamut.