For many non-profits, the ‘where’ factor is a central, but easily undervalued part of their story. Where a non-profit is active is key to the organization’s identity, helping to define those it serves as well as the wider community it’s a part of and benefits. A web-based mapping tool allows non-profits to effectively tell this part of their story. By highlighting the organization’s activities through the lens of its service area, an interactive map sends the message ‘we are dedicated to this community,’ which can help attract community partners, volunteers, and be part of the ongoing appeal for individual, corporate or legislative funding.

The Center for GIS at Towson University (CGIS) offers a variety of options for customized web maps of this nature. With just a spreadsheet of addresses, service offerings, links, photos, and branding materials, CGIS can produce a polished interactive map for users to explore where a non-profit is active and learn about the services being delivered. Depending on the organization’s activities, one can search and filter the map based on program type, geographic area (zip, county, legislative district, etc.), or other relevant criteria. Map pop-ups provide descriptive text, photos, and links to more detailed information. If the organization delivers services to individuals, addresses can be aggregated to protect privacy. The finished mapping application is a set of compiled code made available on the organization’s website and launched via a link.

An example of this is a map CGIS created and updates annually for Maryland Humanities. Accessed via their Our Impact in Maryland page, this interactive map allows users to easily filter and display programs by type, year and geography. Seeing the Maryland Humanities’s programs in this context quickly communicates that they deliver a rich variety of content to Marylanders in all corners of the state. A simple tabular view of the data alongside the map presents total counts by program type and county or legislative district.

Interactive map depicting program types.

An ever-increasing variety of tools are available for creating customized, compelling, interactive maps to showcase an organization’s impacts by highlighting the ‘where’ factor. These tools make it easier than ever for non-profits to put themselves on the map and emphasize their connection to the community.