A Tool to Help Nonprofits Find Each Other, Pursue Funding and Collaborate
There are more than 2,300 nonprofit organizations in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, and Philadelphians know – regardless of the world’s opinions of our character – that our city pride is an integral part of our community fabric.
While charitable initiatives like the Red & White Ball and Broad Street Run are highly visible and draw philanthropic support, a recent report on the financial health of Philadelphia-area nonprofits revealed some important challenges they’re facing:
It’s hard out here for a Philly nonprofit…
More than 40 percent of Philly nonprofit organizations operate on margins of zero or less, and fewer can be considered financially strong. With more than half of Philly’s nonprofits operating on a slim-to-none budget with limited support staff – one Drexel University researcher sought to help streamline their fundraising process by giving them easy access to data from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Census. His goal: Create a tool that makes information about nonprofit organizations, and the communities they’re striving to help, more accessible to likeminded charities and the philanthropic organizations that seek to fund them.
When the IRS recently released millions of records on the finances and operations of nonprofit organizations in format that can be downloaded and analyzed, it was expected that this would usher in a new era of transparency and innovation for the nonprofit sector. Instead, many technical issues made the data virtually unusable by nonprofit organizations.
Neville Vakharia, an assistant professor and research director in Drexel's graduate Arts Administration program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, tackled this issue by creating ImpactView Philadelphia, an online tool and resource that uses the publicly available data on nonprofit organizations to present an easy-to-access snapshot of Philadelphia’s nonprofit ecosystem.
Vakharia combined the publicly available data from the IRS with the most recent American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. These data were combined with a map of Philadelphia to create a visual database easily searchable by organization, address or zip code. Once an organization is selected, the analysis tools allow the user to see data on the map, alongside measures of households and individuals surrounding the organization — important information for nonprofits to have when they are applying for grants or looking for partners.
“Through the location intelligence visualizer, users can immediately find areas of need and potential collaborators. The data are automatically visualized and mapped on-screen, identifying, for example, pockets of high poverty with large populations of children as well as the nonprofit service providers in these areas,” said Vakharia. “Making this data accessible for nonprofits will cut down on time spent seeking information and improve the ability to make data-informed decisions, while also helping with case making and grant applications.”
In addition, the philanthropic community can use this data to make more strategic investments in the communities they want to support.
“This tool helps nonprofit organizations, philanthropies and community leaders identify needs and opportunities, explore areas of collaboration and develop programs and services based on measures of community health,” said Vakharia. “ImpactView Philadelphia visualizes important data on nonprofit organizations combined with individual and household data in an intuitive and user-friendly format.”
ImpactView Philadelphia was supported by a Digital Impact Grant from the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is an open-source program and can easily be replicated in other cities.
To learn more about ImpactView Philadelphia, visit here.