A library's digital resources are often a great place to find data for your nonprofit project. Image: CC. Eden, Janine and Jim

Three free data sources you didn’t know you had

So, you have a new project that requires a lot of research and a deadline that doesn’t fit. Scrambling, you set off to find resources and a search engine is your first go-to resource. You wait half a second and then your confidence falters: 137,000 results.

We live in an information-rich era, but how can you filter the research that’s available and judge its merits for your nonprofit project?

Trust the information experts

Wondering where to find good information resources? Consider reviewing the online research guides provided by a college or university library. Curated by information professionals, plentiful and free, these guides can help you figure out where to look to find international, national, state and sometimes local information.

Senovia Guevara quote for NTENConsider academic sources. Several universities maintain digital repositories that include images, video, reports or datasets available for users to download for free. Research from students, faculty and research-focused organizations associated with the university are often included. Examples include the University of Michigan’s Deep Blue, Harvard’s DASH and more.

Investigate government sources

Depending on what you need, there may be a government-produced report or dataset that can help you. USA.gov, Data.gov, Govinfo.gov and the US Government Publishing Office are several options to consider. Take a look at whether your city provides an open data portal and if they do, take advantage of it.

For example, if you’re an advocate for responsible policing in Lansing, MI, you should know that the city has an Open Data Portal that provides detailed traffic stop information for the area.

Know what to search for

Your front-door search might not give you what you need, but consider other options your search engine provides – like Google’s Dataset Search. Researchers can filter by date, download format and a host of other attributes.

No matter your source, you will still have to vet the sources, but these tips should help you get on the right path and find the data you’re looking for. Good luck!


Main image: Creative Commons, Eden, Janine and Jim.

Senovia Guevara