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Profiles of 5 Mapping Tools (What do you use & why?)

Profiles of 5 Mapping Tools (What do you use & why?)

  • ZeroDivide offers this list of five suggested mapping tools. The article reviews ArcGIS, QGIS, MapWindow, Google Earth Pro, and BatchGeo. Some are free and open source (FOSS). 

    As the organization itself acknowledges, "the reality is that many nonprofits are unlikely to employ an army of data scientists committed to improving social welfare." But data analysis - making sense of information about your clients, volunteers, donors or community - is a powerful activity that can help improve your evaluation activities and communicate success and challenges to donors, potential donors and/or the media.  

    The transformative power of data can benefit any organization willing to invest some time performing basic analysis and visualization work. Before delving in data measurement, an organization should have well defined goals and parameters, which will help with collecting only the most relevant information. I recommend that organizations with less experience and just beginning to use data start small. Even if organizations pick one initial metric to measure, over time it can lead to collecting more information as staff becomes comfortable with utilizing data as part of their work.

    ZeroDivide is "a social impact consulting organization that stays true to its original community foundation mission of improving the health, opportunities and civic engagement of underserved communities through the innovative use of technology." The organization has also written about how organizations can use data to increase their impact.

    Have you used any of these tools - or something else?

    How have you used mapping, or "big data" analysis, at your nonprofit, library, government agency or other mission-based organization?

    Jayne Cravens
    TechSoup Community Forum Manager

  • Jayne

    I use QGIS because it is powerful, flexible, open source and there is good quality training material available for it.However, the power and flexibility come at a cost... it is a complex program and you will have to put in a fair bit of learning time before you will be able to use it effectively. Unless you are a tech junkie like me or have an ongoing need for multiple GIS projects then it might be worth seeking some outside help to set things up for you.

    GIS and mapping tools are great but if you have not used them before I would advise dipping a toe in the water before jumping in and allowing plenty of time for your first project.


    Peter Cheer
    IT & Archaeological Consultant

    web site

  • Another one I use often is Open Street Maps, particularly because it is integrated with other open source tools (and thus doesn't require an expensive subscription).

    Interestingly, when the Haiti earthquake happened, volunteers quickly mapped out Haiti with it using old satellite pictures.  Humanitarian efforts could then integrate that in with their services.