Five Ways Your Foundation or Nonprofit Can Get Started With Spatial Analysis

Five Ways Your Foundation or Nonprofit Can Get Started With Spatial Analysis

Taking advantage of new technology in your foundation or nonprofit can sometimes be a difficult process. Fortunately, the Knight Digital Media Center (KDMC) hosts a series of workshops across the US for nonprofit foundations to learn about technology. I was able to speak at the most recent KDMC workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with Amy Gahran, independent journalist, Dan X. O’Neil, Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, and Sarah K. Goo, creator of the Pew Research blog Fact Tank.

In my workshop I talked about five ways nonprofits and foundations can get started with spatial analysis, and I used three case studies from Azavea’s Summer of Maps program to help.

The bicycle crash maps I made last summer for the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia fostered a public conversation about crash reporting policies, raising awareness about an issue the Bike Coalition cared about. The spatial analysis work I completed for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger as a Summer of Maps Fellow helped amplify their door-to-door efforts and target their limited advertising dollars. Finally, 2013 Summer of Maps Fellow Lena Ferguson’s work for DVAEYC had a huge impact, helping win one million dollars in grant money to improve early childhood education programs in Philadelphia.

Your foundation or nonprofit may be interested in taking advantage of spatial analysis to raise your profile, amplify your message, and target your efforts. Here are five steps you can take to get started:

  1. Take the Maps and the Geospatial Revolution class at Coursera to learn more about spatial analysis. The course is online and free, and takes about five weeks to complete. Have a data analyst in your organization take it too.
  2. Collect address-level data about every interaction your organization has with clients and the public, because addresses need to be in a specific format to be put on a map. Here are some best practices for preparing and maintaining your organization’s address data.
  3. Check out TechSoup to find discounted licenses for ArcGIS, or download the free and open-source alternative, QGIS. You may not be ready to use a GIS desktop software now, but having one on hand will enable an analyst, consultant, or intern to get started working on spatial analysis right away.
  4. Check out the presentation, sample maps, and some resources I collected for the workshop with this Bitbucket of links.
  5. Tell each of your grantees (if you’re a foundation) to do steps 1-4.

The five steps above should help your organization leverage the power of spatial analysis. You may already have questions about your data. If so, consider applying to the Summer of Maps program. Your organization will have a chance to receive pro-bono spatial analysis from Azavea-mentored Fellows. If you’d like to learn more about spatial analysis or Summer of Maps send me an email at