Digital Civil Society Lab

Private Resources for Public Purpose


Individuals have at least four distinct ways to use their private financial resources (money) for public purpose. These are charitable giving, political contributions, impact investing, and consumer choices. Each of these choices can be exercised on crowdfunding platforms. At this point in time, we track these different revenue flows separately and rarely consider the intersections and dynamics between them. The Private Resources for Public Purpose (PRPP) Index is a design effort to determine what data we have on these different streams, how we might bring them together, and what we might learn from bringing them together, as well as to develop potential use cases for joint data visualizations, indices, or integrated databases.

Research Questions

  • What data exist on these different streams of private financial giving for public purpose (charitable giving, political contributions, impact investing, and consumer choices)?
  • How we might bring them together into a single index, what might we learn from doing so, and what are the potential practical use cases of such an index?


The Digital Civil Society Lab convened an invited group at the offices of the Milken Institute in Washington, D.C. on December 11, 2015. Lucy Bernholz led a brainstorming and design session to consider the potential users and purposes of these data. 

The conversations identified a variety of potential use cases for such an index:

  • Development of new portfolio measures for individual or institutional resource allocation
  • Indices for financial advisors or philanthropy advisors to benchmark allocation
  • Cities or regions might use an index of private resource availability and access within context of social progress indicators, social entrepreneurship efforts, or community well-being 
  • Resource for multiple regulatory bodies: SEC, IRS, FEC, FCC, FTC, State Attorneys General 
  • Sector research on revenue to social economy writ large 
  • Resource for longitudinal analysis of changing revenue streams 
  • Resource for policy efforts on use of and reporting from crowdfunding platforms 
  • Resource for impact measurement efforts, cross reference type of funding with impact 
  • Longitudinal analysis of financial support to all aspects of civil society  


An Index We Really Need

Reflections from Lucy Bernholz on the blog Philanthropy 2173

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