Google Earth recently launched its iPhone app, so what does this mean. I think this means more non-profits and organizations taking notice on how to literally, map out their strategy.

Mapping Fun

Mapping, mainly through Google earth and Google maps, has been increasing in use. I was first introduced to mapping glorious-ness by my fiance. When we went to Rome last year, he created a Google map highlighting all the Gelato hot spots in Rome. What more can I ask for than a man who not only shares my second love of ice cream, but plans it as key stopping point while we tour Italy? Now, In terms of relevant non-profit mapping, I was moved by 1) Wild Apricot’s recent post about Google Earth outreach, and 2) a SB Reader.

As Wild Apricot shares:

Google Earth and Google Maps let anyone create a custom map — and share it by sending a link, or embed on a web page. Personalized and annotated, even enhanced with photographs and videos, online maps can help to engage your supporters in a way that bare text never can. New features now let you collaborate with others and import geographical data to customize a map.

Case Study Highlight

SocialButterfly reader, Dan, at Tutor Mentor Connections recently shared with me how he and his non-profit are utilizing mapping technolgoy. Over the past six months, Tutor Mentor Connections have developed a library of maps that are intended as tools that leaders use to support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in specific geographic areas in Illinois. I conducted an email interview with Dan which I will feature later this week, but here is a sneak preview:

Why mapping?

“Maps are one form of visual communications. Pictures are worth thousands of words in communicating ideas. Generals use maps to distribute troops in time of war. They do this to make sure they have forces everywhere they are needed. A city could have a telephone directory full of youth program listings, and still not have programs in half of the places where they are needed. Maps can help leaders understand where there are programs, and can be used to help build business/non profit collaborations. They can be used as tools in any leadership strategy.”

I look forward to sharing Dan’s work with you as I think Dan is doing a fantastic job of creating a 1, 2 Punch when it comes to tackling giant issues (i.e. poverty and education) through mapping technology. Crafting data, supported by research, and translating that creatively through meaningful, visual representation.

Others Examples of Non-Profits Mapping

  1. Google Earth’s outreach blog highlights 10 example case studies on how non-profits have used Google Earth for their efforts. These groups include: the U.N. Environment Programe, EDGE, The Jane Goodall Institute, U.S. Holocaust Museum, Sierra Club and others. Whether this means providing virtual tours, highlighting the location of endangered species, or elevating the work of researchers and scientists, mapping can provide innovative and creative ways to communicate a message visually.
  2. The New Orleans Food and Farm Network used Google Maps to show how residents in devastated areas where to find food, from grocery stores and restaurants, to farmers’ markets and emergency kitchens. Additional related outreach included the distribution of paper and PDF maps.
  3. Mobilizing Youth – Though an older post from August 2007, the blog lists over 25 examples of non-profits using maps to conserve rainforests to raising awareness for child cruelty.
  4. Factory Farm Map – Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization concerned with clean water and safe food issues, had the goal to illustrate the growth of factory farms across the United States, mapping US Census data to show how and where animal production is becoming concentrated in different regions of the country. (Wild Apritcot) Thus, enter mapping technology to bridge the disconnect between dense data and understanding.

Where to Get Mapping


  • Google Earth, Google Earth Plus, Google Earth Pro
    • According to Wild Apricot’s summise, NP’s can use Google Earth Free, but it is not to be used to provide paid services. Compare Google earth packages to determine the one you need for your project. For the Pro version, organizations. To see what financial assistance may be available, be sure to check out Google Earth’s grant program.
  • Google Maps
  • MapBuilder
    • A mashup development tool that builds custom Google and Yahoo maps without any knowledge of the Google/Yahoo Maps API and JavaScript.
  • PlaniGlobe
    • Create interactive maps using a vector architecture base.
  • Zee Maps
    • Quickly create interactive world maps through a service that allows you to add your own search query, allow for user-admins and is multiple-user friendly.
  • Frappr
    • Frappr collects three pieces of information: an online guest book, a hit log and a map. Using Google Map technology, visitors to Frappr can enter their name, zip code and other information. Their locations are then marked on the map with a clickable flag that pops up their information. (Netsquared)
  • WayFaring
    • Create, view, share and and personalize your own custom made map. The user-interface on this tool looks very user-friendly.
  • DataPlace
  • Dabble DB
    • Helps you create online databases to manage, share and explore data and to build web applications. Some that can be represented in the form of a map to help breakdown and identify trends.
  • MapPoint
    • A product of Microsoft, this tool helps you visualize and translate your data into meaningful information.


Wrap Up

Mapping is a great visual. However, for the map to be both effective and useful, it must be fueled by great content while also being data-driven. Thought this research document is from 2002, skimming through it shows just how data can be re-constructed to be meaningful and cohesive. However, this is where I believe mashups come into play too.

What are your thoughts on mapping technology?

Photo credit: flickr, dannysullivan

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