A classification system for social sector initiatives and entities
CLASSIE is a landmark Our Community Innovation Lab initiative that enables systematic classification of social sector initiatives and entities: a social sector taxonomy for Australia and New Zealand.
CLASSIE is based on the well-respected and widely used Philanthropy Classification System, an initiative of the US organisation Candid (formerly Foundation Center). Its adaptation to Australia and New Zealand drew on deep input from more than 50 subject matter experts, with management and oversight by Our Community staff and contractors.
CLASSIE is used in Our Community enterprises, including SmartyGrants, Funding Centre and GiveNow, and external systems including the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC)'s enhanced Charity Register, the Centre for Social Impact's Amplify initative, and on the ChangePath charity information website.
(Released March 31, 2021). The links below download CLASSIE in Excel.
Organisation classification (Australia only)
(describes organisation types and sizes)
- Organisation type: download
- Not-for-profit organisation classification: download
- Grantmaker classification: download
(describes the sector/segment of the sector that an organisation or project fits into)
- Subject classification: download
(describes population/beneficiary groups)
- Population classification: download
(describes the activities being supported)
- Activities classification: download
(describes how support is being provided)
- Transaction type classification: download
- Why now
- How we got here
- CLASSIEfier - auto-classification
- Why use CLASSIE?
- Next steps
- Outcomes classification
- CLASSIE in detail
- Change Register
- We want your feedback
Despite a natural tendency among social sector organisations towards collegiality and collective action, most initiatives have up to now remained siloed - lessons hidden, or not widely shared. This has to change.
We want to get government grantmakers, philanthropists, not-for-profit organisations, businesses, social investors, donors - anyone who's contributing money, time or other forms of support to create change - to start speaking the same language. It's the first crucial step in the march towards evidence-based practice and accelerated outcomes.
The development of CLASSIE builds upon Our Community's two decades of work with grantmakers and not-for-profits, and our extensive investigations of domestic and international innovations in government and philanthropic grantmaking.
CLASSIE is used across Our Community platforms including GiveNow, GoodJobs, the Funding Centre's EasyGrants Database, the Institute of Community Directors Australia's Board Matching Service, and our grants management platform, SmartyGrants.
It is also used by the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) to help charities classify their programs.
All of these services involve collecting information from social-change organisations about who they are and what they do. Joining them up provides an unprecedented opportunity for the tens of thousands of not-for-profit organisations and grantmakers who are working to create positive social change. With the implementation of CLASSIE, and the cooperation of our partners, Our Community is spearheading the generation of data-backed evidence and powerful insights that have never been available before.
This is the most exciting time in history for policy-makers, not-for-profit practitioners, grantmakers and other change-makers. New tools provide us with opportunities for streamlining, acceleration, and smarter, more evidence-driven practice.
Big data provides opportunities for big impact. Application of a common data schema - a taxonomy - is an essential first step. By providing a better picture of where and to whom money is flowing, and to what use it is being put, CLASSIE will ultimately enable changes that will strengthen the social, economic and environmental fabric of our communities.
Now is the time to act. We have the technological tools we need, and with hundreds of grantmakers of all sizes and types using SmartyGrants, and tens of thousands of not-for-profits using our other websites and services, we have the tools that can pull it all together.
CLASSIE underpins efforts to join the dots from platform to platform, organisation to organisation, outcome to outcome.
In 2014 Our Community selected the Philanthropy Classification System (PCS), an initiative of the Foundation Center (now Candid) in the United States, as the base for our own taxonomy. Re-released by the Foundation Center in July 2015, the PCS represented the most relevant, most up to date and most internationally focused taxonomy available. We were granted permission to use the taxonomy as the base of an Australian classification system under a modified Creative Commons licence.
As soon as the revised version of the PCS was released, we swung into action, identifying more than 50 Australian subject matter experts and allocating relevant sections to them to review. We assessed their feedback and adapted the PCS accordingly. Some areas of the PCS were tweaked, others completely redrawn as CLASSIE began to take shape.
We took a minimum-possible-change approach to ensure that we remained as true as possible to the PCS, an approach designed to ensure that our schema was practical and relevant for Australian organisations while also leaving open the possibility of streamlined international data sharing.
In April 2016, we released CLASSIE 1.0 for Australian social sector organisations, and started integrating its listings into various Our Community websites and platforms. More feedback followed, resulting in Version 1.1, which was released in August 2016. A big milestone was reached in November 2016, with the release of CLASSIE 2.0 and the move to incorporate parts of CLASSIE into SmartyGrants, Our Community's grants management platform. This move made the Subject and Beneficiaries sections of CLASSIE available to hundreds of grantmakers and, through them, many thousands of not-for-profit organisations.
In August 2017, we released CLASSIE 2.1, which was adopted by GiveNow, Our Community's online donations platform. This release saw some significant changes to the Organisation sections as well as a name and concept change to the Beneficiaries section, which is now a more versatile Population section.
In June 2018, we released CLASSIE 2.1.1, a minor update to the structure of the CLASSIE sections and sheets.
In December 2018, we released CLASSIE 3.0, a major update with two new classification sheets (Activities and Transaction types), and some significant changes to the Subject and Population sections.
In August 2018, we commenced work on a New Zealand version of CLASSIE. A draft was released for review in June 2019, and the first edition of the NZ Subject and Population sheets were released with a major CLASSIE update - CLASSIE 4.0 - which was released on October 21, 2019. CLASSIE 4.0 was adopted for use by the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) in 2020.
CLASSIE Version 4.1 was released in March 2021.>
CLASSIE is very much a work in progress - we continue to plan regular updates. We welcome feedback on new and revised items.
This project is being driven by Our Community, a highly-ranked social enterprise that provides information, infrastructure, connections, tools and data science programs that enable government and other change agents to build stronger communities.
In developing CLASSIE, Our Community's Innovation Lab has been hugely assisted by Candid, which provided access to its open-source PCS, and advice and assistance as we worked to adapt the PCS to Australia and New Zealand.
We are also indebted to our subject matter experts, more than 50 practitioners drawn from the real world of grantmaking and community, environmental and economic development, who helped us review the taxonomy and suggested changes that would make it relevant, useful and instantly applicable for Australia and New Zealand. A dedicated team of Our Community staff and contractors worked to coordinate that massive undertaking. Input from grantmakers and other users of the system is ongoing, and fundamentally important to the ongoing evolution of the taxonomy.
As a first step, CLASSIE was applied to Our Community's Funding Centre and GoodJobs databases. A major milestone was realised when the Subject and Beneficiaries (now Population) sections of CLASSIE were made available to the many hundreds of Australian federal, state and local government, philanthropic, corporate and community grantmakers who use the SmartyGrants platform in mid-November, 2016. A New Zealand version was released into SmartyGrants in October 2019.
The adoption of CLASSIE by the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission in 2020 represented another key milestone, taking the taxonomy more deeply into the social sector.
The rapid, widespread and cross-sector take-up of SmartyGrants (it's the most-used system in Australia and New Zealand, with an increasing international presence as well) provides an unprecedented opportunity for data collection, analytics and sharing of practices and insights within grantmaking affinity groups and beyond.
In SmartyGrants, CLASSIE is delivered through a series of standard questions that come "pre-loaded" with standard responses derived from the relevant section of the taxonomy. Our Community's other platforms have CLASSIE baked in to database fields.
SmartyGrants users can read more about the use of CLASSIE standard fields at https://help.smartygrants.com.au/using-smartygrants/classie/.
Our Community's CLASSIEfier project involves applying data science to the task of auto-classifying written records (e.g. grant applications, appeal descriptions, mission statements). This allows us to classify past records instantly or make classification suggestions to system users, which allows suers to instantly reveal funding patterns and create benchmarking insights.
You can read more about CLASSIEfier here.
There are many reasons why any funder, not-for-profit sector peak or social change organisation should consider using CLASSIE:
- Latest practice: CLASSIE represents the very latest in thinking on how to describe and classify social sector organisations and initiatives. It is being updated constantly in response to feedback from users.
- The power of the crowd: Why develop your own set of classifications when all the hard work has been done for you by others? As we always say, "none of us is as smart as all of us".
- Comparing apples with apples: You can't make proper comparisons if everyone is using different terms to describe the same things. CLASSIE brings order to the chaos.
For grantmakers using the SmartyGrants software, we providesome additional powerful incentives to start using CLASSIE:
- Dashboards: The SmartyGrants Dashboard gives SmartyGrants users instant access to data-driven, CLASSIE-derived insights.
- Overlays: We are also working towards developing tools to allow grantmakers to overlay their data with information from other sources - e.g. demographic data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Benchmarking tools: Once we can classify you, as a grantmaker, we can help you to compare yourself to similar grantmakers on the SmartyGrants system.
- Cross-sector data sharing: CLASSIE allows us to more easily compare one grantmaking sector with another, and provide a better picture of what all sectors combined are doing.
- International data sharing: CLASSIE is based on the very latest international system of social sector classification, facilitating data sharing across international borders.
Other reasons to use CLASSIE:
- Respectful use of data: Whichever grantmaking sector you work in, the move towards greater transparency is happening. CLASSIE is overseen by Our Community and we care as much about your right to learn in private as we care about the public's right to know about where and how grants money is being distributed - we strongly believe that these things must be carefully balanced.
The sections of CLASSIE that are currently available describe:Organisations (Australia only), including:
- Organisation type (e.g. individual, government agency, business, not-for-profit, educational institution)
- Not-for-profit organisation type (e.g. unincorporated association, incorporated association, cooperative, company limited by guarantee, trust)
- Not-for-profit organisation size (annual revenue)
- Not-for-profit organisation tax/charity status
- Grantmaker type (e.g. local, state or federal government, QANGO, giving circle, philanthropic trust/foundation, corporate grantmaker).
- Grantmaker size (annual distribution).
- Agriculture, fisheries and forestry
- Animal welfare
- Arts and culture
- Community development
- Economic development
- Human rights
- Human services
- Information and Communications
- International relations
- Public affairs
- Public safety
- Religion and faith-based spirtuality
- Social sciences
- Sport and recreation
- Age group
- Sexual identity
- Family relationships
- Ethnic and racial groups
- Social and economic status
- Health status
- Work status and occupation
- Core costs
- Project/program costs
- Capacity building
- Capital costs
- Equipment/vehicle costs
- Network building and collaboration
- Fundraising costs
- Research and development
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Legal costs
- Cash grants
- Workplace support
- Contracts or tenders
- In-kind contributions
- Pro bono services
- Stock transfers and certificates
- Promissory notes
- Low-interest or no-interest loans
- Impact investment
Click here to download a PDF summary of changes made to CLASSIE since its release up to CLASSIE version 4.1.
If you want to stay in touch with how we're progressing, please join our CLASSIE mailing list (click the button below), or feel free to get in touch by emailing Kathy Richardson at email@example.com.