Orchestra 990 Database Project
Converting a decade of professional orchestra IRS Forms 990 returns into a keyword searchable database with filtered results.
"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant."
~ Mitchell Kapor; co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation's first Chair.
Picture how nice it would be to conduct a search for “music director” across all professional orchestra IRS Form 990s for the past decade. For now, it is only a dream but my development team of expert programmers and designers are ready to change that.
This project is all about open data and institutional transparency and I am confident that it will be one of the most significant advances for this sector within the nonprofit performing arts field in decades.
We've done our homework to be certain that a large portion of those associated with the orchestra field are behind the idea to build this searchable database. In order to make this a reality, the project will be personally managed by me, Drew McManus, and will utilize the team of programmers and designers I've been working with for a number of years via The Venture Platform; the fastest growing, purpose built and managed website publishing platform made expressly for performing arts organizations and artists.
This ideal mixture of arts insider and technology development experience mean the project will be in the best possible position for delivering a fantastic user experience as well as guaranteeing ongoing feature and functionality development.
What You're Funding...
Now that we've covered the 30,000 foot vision, let's get down to ground level detail; here's an overview of project deliverables:
- Converting a decade's worth of IRS Form 990s into a searchable format along with assigning category filters.
- The database will begin with the 2003/04 season filings. The database will include all US based professional orchestras with total expenditures of $2 million and higher.
- A website that will retain a searchable database of professional orchestra IRS From 990s.
- The user interface will provide multi taxonomy filtering to assist with narrowing results (think searching by state, zip, and other custom categories).
- Users will be able to download copies of documents returned in the search query.
- Searches and results will be free for all users, all the time.
- The website will be built atop an open source publishing platform and feature a responsive design, allowing users to easily interface via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone without the hassle of downloading and installing platform specific apps.
- An L3C will be formed as the entity under which all work and ongoing administration will be conducted (more on that below).
Bonus: Tired Of Reading? Then Kick Back And Learn TV Style.
Don't miss an interview at SoundNotion.tv, the new music and music news video podcast where the in-crowd goes to learn, and the hosts go above and beyond by asking the questions you're probably wondering right this moment, such as:
- What exactly is a 990?
- Who is this data for?
- Why should I care again?
The interview segment about the Orchestra 990 Database Project begins right after the initial introductions. Enjoy!
This project is about more than simply tossing a bunch of IRS Form 990s together; instead, it is about the future of fiscal transparency in the nonprofit performing arts community. We're dedicated to making institutional transparency accessible to the full range of stakeholders and supporters and to that end, we intend to form a dedicated L3C, or low-profit limited liability company, that will be responsible for ongoing oversight, maintenance, and continued project development.
The L3C designation facilitates investments in socially beneficial activity and bridges the gap between traditional nonprofit status and purely commercial enterprises such as an LLC; that means we'll be focused more on mission based activity as opposed to maximizing income.
The project will benefit from leadership with more than two decades of successful entrepreneurial experience and avoid biting off more than it can chew. This brings uncompromising judgment and stewardship to creating an online searchable database that is high quality, user friendly, and something affordable and within the means of this Kickstarter project.
Given The Chance...
We're all about good problems to have and to that end, here's what you can expect us to do with any funds raised in excess of our goal:
- Expand the number of professional orchestras included in the database (i.e. lowering the budget inclusion threshold).
- Extend the starting point to the 2000/01 season.
But wait, there's more! If we double our fundraising amount we'll be able to go gangbusters and do all of this awesome stuff by September, 2014:
- Expand the database to include nonprofit opera organizations.
- Expand the database to include nonprofit ballet organizations.
- Create real-time, downloadable comparison charts for targeted filter metrics (i.e. compare the rate of change in an organization's executive compensation or compare specific revenue/expense items between multiple ensembles).
Keep An eye On This Space For Project Updates
Risks and challenges
Fortunately, the risks and challenges are slim, which is an important part of what makes this an entirely attractive funding project.
Challenge #1 - Making the source files readable & Taxonomy. This is a straightforward process of converting the 990s from their current non-Optical Character Recognition (OCR) state into something that can be scanned for keyword searches. Fortunately, we've done all the initial testing and know it can be done, it will just be a matter of getting it done. But hey, that's why we need the funding! Taxonomy is just fancy geek-speak for creating categories that will be used for filtering search results, such as state, zip code, etc. If this process takes longer than anticipated, the worst of it is the site launches later than the anticipated July target.
Challenge #2 - Creating resource content to help users identify hidden data. Just because you can keyword search a document doesn't mean you will magically find every nugget of data you're looking for. And that's where we'll need to create and maintain support content to help users identify common areas where data may be hard to find. For example, music directors are not always employees and when they are paid as private contractors, they may use a corporate name. There's nothing wrong with that but wouldn't it be nice to have a list of which conductors are associated with which corporate names? Our "Early Access" donors will be crucial here to help us identify data that would benefit from expanded resource content. The more they observe, the longer it will take to create the resource content. This does not have any potential for delaying launch but it may result in some resource content having placeholder message indicating that content is coming.
THE FINE PRINT
• Twitter, Facebook, and Voice Greeting rewards must fall within the standards of good taste and are at your direction, but at Drew McManus' discretion. Drew reserves the right to refuse to say or do what you request if he finds it inappropriate. The arbiter of good taste is Drew McManus but really, you probably know where the line is anyway.
- (46 days)