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ShareVision Blog

Conversations on technology for community service providers

What You Need to Know About Building BRIDGES


The non-profit world can be a very confusing place to try and understand our differences and to determine who’s who in the pond. Some of us refer to ourselves as agencies, others are non-profits, some are organizations (which sounds so big and fancy), still others identify as charities, N.G.O.’s, or are members of the “third sector”. Then there are the foundations, service clubs, self-help organizations, volunteer clubs, and even MANGO’s (A Market Advocacy NGO apparently! Confused? Then just imagine how your donors or supporters might feel! So just what are all these organizations doing anyway?

Well someone wanted to clean up the above identity mess, and so an idea started collectively by The Foundation Center, Global Giving, GuideStar, and TechSoup Global aims to change all that confusion, by giving each of us in the “The Global Social Sector” a unique identifying number. (And doesn’t the term Global Social Sector have a nice ring to it?) This unique number will be our BRIDGE number.

BRIDGE stands for The Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities, an acronym that’s more like a word, like SCUBA, but for non-profits! According to their website: “BRIDGE is a system that assigns a unique identifying number — a “numerical fingerprint” — to philanthropic organizations across the globe. These can be non-governmental organizations, programs, and projects or other entities in the social sector, including schools and churches.”

Launched in just February 2016 the new BRIDGE Registry is a database of more than three million nonprofits, NGOs, and charities worldwide and each one of them has ALREADY been assigned a new BRIDGE Number.

I of course had to check if the small non profit that I work for was registered and had an assigned BRIDGE number….and to my great surprise, as I think we are such a wee tadpole in the large pond of the “Global Social Sector”, I was pleasantly surprised to find we were there! We exist! We have a BRIDGE number! Then I immediately wondered how the hell do they even know about us anyway?

Turns out the four organizations spearheading this registry, all shared and pooled their data, so if you are a member of or use any of their collective services, your information has already been shared to the registry. My little agency uses Tech Soup, so there was no conspiracy at work here as to how they knew of my little charity (whew). The four organizations that created the registry hold data for a combined total of approximately 3 million NGOs. You can check your own agency here (I know you want to!)

But how will having a unique number be helpful and useful to our sector? According to BRIDGES: “This new numbering system is a huge leap forward for global philanthropy and may one day enable individuals to donate online to any nonprofit with a BRIDGE Number – not through the BRIDGE Registry itself, but rather through an online or mobile giving service that uses the BRIDGE numbering system.

The BRIDGE project aims to revolutionize information sharing in order to better understand and track the flows of philanthropic dollars and thereby enhance transparency and effectiveness in the global social sector.

The field of international development and global aid is an extremely complex ecosystem with many, many committed players in philanthropy. But despite the incredible amount of passion, innovative thinking, and resources going into this ecosystem, it’s lacking critical infrastructure to connect all this action and information, which means this ecosystem is not only complex, it’s messy.”

Jeff Falkenstein, Vice President for Data Architecture, the Foundation Center further states that: “ 'Unique identifiers' will allow us to synchronize the data of millions of NGOs to produce a clearer and more holistic picture of what’s happening in the international development arena. They will also give the partner organizations the ability to create complementary services, products, and APIs for the benefit of the entire sector.

As a member of the “Global Social Sector” I will admit we ARE less connected and free-wheeling than perhaps other sectors, and yes a little messy. I hope that the creation of a global registry and BRIDGE number will not only allow us to create scan codes or universal donor numbers, but will also bring greater legitimacy to our collective work.

To keep up to date on the registry you can subscribe to the BRIDGE newsletter here

Topics: non-profit