March 19, 2012

A Simple Map Can Help You Reach the Right Clients

Something as simple as a map can help organizations make sure they're reaching the people who most need services, says Holly Ross, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network. As an example, she tells a story she heard from an employee at a local Red Cross.

The organization’s education department had a map on the wall with pins that marked the schools where the charity had made fire-safety presentations. One day a disaster-response colleague came by and asked about the map. He looked puzzled for a moment, and then he started to mark the locations of recent house fires.

The pushpins marking the fire-safety presentations and the X’s marking the location of the house fires were in different parts of town. Seeing the discrepancy, the organization realized it needed to reach out to schools in neighborhoods with a high incidence of fires, instead of just responding to schools that requested fire-safety presentations, says Ms. Ross.

She suggests that social-service and education charities could do a similar check by plotting their clients’ home addresses on a map and then overlaying census data on poverty rates: “We could really use our data to help us understand if we're serving the right people at the right time.”

Dig Deeper: Learn more about how charities are using infographics and interactive data tools to attract new donors, raise awareness about their causes, spark activism, and improve their programs. Need inspiration? Check out The Chronicle’s gallery of nonprofit data visualizations.