In the past year or so, you may have noticed something called a BRIDGE Number in the GrantStation funder profiles. Are we somehow invoking esoteric mathematical knot theory to help find you the best grantmakers? (When diagramming a knot, a bridge is an overcrossing of the rope on any arc. Fun stuff!)
Um, not yet.
The BRIDGE Numbers we use refer to the Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities, an identification system led by the Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, and GuideStar. While some IRS-registered entities will have an employer identification number, or EIN, the BRIDGE system seeks to create a more usable, comprehensive, and effective listing system, and to encourage better information sharing between nonprofit organizations. Currently, about three million organizations around the globe have been assigned a BRIDGE Number.
The BRIDGE system was designed to improve on current listing systems. Some of the difficulties the system works to address include the following:
- Use of the same identifier for multiple organizations: In the U.S., for example, an EIN may be reused after an organization terminates.
- Existence of multiple identifiers for a single organization: Some countries have multiple registries for organizations (such as Company Numbers and Charity Numbers in the United Kingdom), which can make it difficult to determine which identifier to use.
- Lack of a known identifier for an organization: Some countries may have no registration system for organizations, or an incomplete registration system, or a system with limited data access.
- Lack of identifiers for organizational units, such as local branches or chapters of national organizations: Other identifiers often are not intended to track separate branches, departments, or programs of an organization. For example, chapters of large parent organizations like the YMCA or Salvation Army share a single EIN.
Awareness of the BRIDGE system is still pretty low. GrantStation started adding BRIDGE Numbers well over a year ago. But in our communications with grantmakers, we've heard from several who already have a BRIDGE Number but point to that bit of information and say, "We don't know what that is."
Even if you're unaware of it, there is a good chance your organization has a BRIDGE Number. Organizations are assigned a number when they submit an application to be a GlobalGiving partner, if they have a GuideStar Nonprofit Profile, or if they are profiled in the Foundation Center's databases.
The system is still in its infancy, but the goal is to make data sharing and acquisition much easier. In time, the system may be integrated with other databases. The hope is that as the number of organizations with a BRIDGE Number grows, the system will help spur further innovation in the nonprofit sector. We're currently on the BRIDGE, now let's see where it can take us.