Key Points

The literature on nonprofit organizations exhorts them to understand and develop their communities’ strengths and capacities. Yet, identifying those communities, appreciating the conditions that affect them, and integrating organizational stakeholders can pose difficulties for any nonprofit, including foundations.

This article examines how a tool relatively new to nonprofits — geographic information systems — can be used to support community building by bringing together different stakeholders. A geographic information system is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data, thus allowing an organization to map its community and share that visualization with its stakeholders.

This article also shows how geographic information systems can assist foundations and other nonprofits in identifying and strengthening their communities by mobilizing the resources dedicated to core issues and improving relations and knowledge-sharing between nonprofit administrators and their various stakeholders. It discusses how geographic information systems tools can help to build community while illustrating the challenges involved with implementing, using, and sustaining it in the nonprofit sector.

Open Access