They are also driven by the need for competing vendors to claim an expertise in their space. I noted the rise of Blackbaud's indices (released today), Convio's data analyses, quarterly public announcements from national donor advised funds such as Fidelity and Schwab, and increased frequency of reporting and predictions from the Foundation Center, Guidestar, and others.
Today, Sean Stannard Stockton points to another player, Philanthromax, and its Atlas of Giving. He describes it as "real-time" - which is inaccurate. It is monthly, which simply makes it more frequent than the other sources but it is not real time. Real time data are those that you can watch as they are generated - such as on the "trending" list on Twitter. Monthly reporting is monthly reporting. It is certainly more frequent that the annual Giving USA report to which Sean compares it.
More data sources are good. We're at the point in the market cycle of these data providers where everyone will put a product into the marketplace and some will succeed. In the meantime, we'll face some confusion over which one measures what, what methodologies are being used, who is right more than wrong - the usual market response to suddenly crowded market niches.
This is what is happening right now with both charity raters (Charity Navigator, AIP, BBB, GiveWell, etc) and with online giving platforms (GlobalGiving, Kiva, Jumo and the 60+ others out there). We discussed the abundance of online platforms with Chris Hughes of Jumo last week at the Global Philanthropy Forum. I'm going to address the problem about the multitude of raters in my next post about the Greg Mortenson/3 Cups of Tea controversy.