by Jon Nelson
Seeing a map of where your constituents, members, students or other stakeholders are located can be incredibly illustrative and enlightening. After the election madness, your eyes may glaze over, or you may start getting shortness of breath at the mention of yet another map, but stick with me. This is worth it.
We certainly have recognized how maps could be useful for ALDE, but had trouble finding an effective, low cost, in house solution. After much searching and banging of the head against monitors/walls I finally found something that works great (for FREE!). It’s unpretentious without being too simple. It’s powerful while remaining intuitive. The winner is BatchGeo.
All you need to do is copy and paste address columns from a spreadsheet (I exported an Excel file from our database), click Map Now, tell BatchGeo what the columns mean (if it hasn’t already figured them out) and wait for it to create the map (view the full Excel instructions).
The wait can be awhile — for a bigger list it might take 15 minutes. But it’s free, and the results are decidedly worth the wait. You can zoom out to see general concentrations of constituents. Zoom in and get a more detailed view of who’s where. It also allows you to save maps as a link for sharing with coworkers and to edit later. You can additionally keep these maps private, which is an important feature (their high security is explained here).
There are many advanced features, as well. These include color coding data points based on certain parameters and what they call “sales mapping” — but the uses of that for donor tracking are readily apparent.
What can a map made through BatchGeo tell you? The possibilities can go as far as your creativity (this being a map post, I was going to say something about the potential going to the ends of the earth, but decided to spare you — you’re welcome!). One idea involves understanding which areas may be underserved or untapped. For example, if you have many students or congregation members from the northeast side of town, but far fewer from the just as close southwest section, why is that? If you have plenty of donors from an area of the state or province that is known to be relatively middle class, but you’re missing out on a section that has decidedly greater capacity to give, why is that? What can you do to better reach those people?
Getting a geographic view of your organization can provide a clearer picture of the outfit, where it is and where it can go. Even if you don’t have a specific result in mind, the best thing to do with these maps can be to just make one, and then see what it tells you. That’s the beauty of this sort of analysis – you might not know what you’re looking for, but once you find it, it can give you a whole new outlook and direction.
The (FREE!) tools are out there. Use them!
Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE. He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.