Monday, June 22, 2009

campusCATALYST and the future of our GIS mapping

So as I've offhandedly mentioned in this blog, over the past dozen or so weeks, a campusCATALYST team of 5 Northwestern students have been working with us to develop a marketing strategy for our GIS mapping capacity. For more information about our use of GIS mapping see my rockstar friend and coworker, Mike Trakan's "Mapping for Justice" blog. Over the past year he has been creating static maps using his GIS skills that help us "tell the rest of the story". That is, in the wake of a tragic shooting or a piece of investigative journalism that highlights high-poverty neighborhoods, Trakan creates maps that can be used to help show leadership strategies that can help individuals and organizations improve their strategy, fundraising and knowledge.

Since the budget for continuing this mapping project has run out and we are struggling to secure funding to keep him on, we had this team of undergraduate consultants, working in tandem with a Kellogg Graduate student, Diego Ibanez, develop an earned income strategy for our use of GIS technology to create a sustainable income that would permit us to contine and hopefully expand our mapping capacity. After a number of meetings with us they decided that the best course of action would be to survey a variety of people affiliated with our organization to see if they would find any value in our mapping were we to offer it via a fee-based service. So they sent out a survey to our databases and received just shy of 100 responses. From these responses and their own marketing coursework and experience, the team concluded that the best course of action would be for us to serve in a consulting role to provide GIS mapping services at a cost of $250/map. They suggested that we market these maps to other non-profit organizations through one-on-one conversations with potential customers.

In order to successfully market these services, they recommended that we create a webpage on dedicated to selling our mapping services that clearly lays out our services and their cost. One major finding of their survey was that many potential customers are unclear about the benefits of using this mapping technology to their organization. For this reason, we should include testimonials and examples of how this analysis can be utilized to benefit their organization. This site should also have examples of ways that organizations can benefit by utilizing our maps to help us make our case. They also advocate clearly connecting these mapping services to the underlying mission of the T/MC in order to justify to potential clients why we're offering this service. Since we are going to be marketing these maps primarily via one-on-one conversations with potential client organizations, I think this is particularly important, particularly given that it's rarely clear at first glance how exactly GIS mapping relates to our underlying mission. I for one constantly find myself explaining the many ways that GIS mapping helps our organization try to more effectively tell our story and develop leadership strategies that bring in volunteers, dollars, policy change and media awareness. For more info, stay tuned, or check out Mike Trakan's blog at

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