Where Are Your Donors Concentrated? How About Those You Serve? Find out with Geo-Coding.

One of our customers recently asked if there was a way to geo-code his ResultsPlus data to create a map to show where the families they serve are located as well as a map to show where their donors are located. There are numerous reasons why an organization may want to do this. Perhaps the goal is to create a way for your donors to visualize how many/much service is provided in a specific region/city/neighborhood. Or, perhaps it’s important to identify and see where most of your donors are coming from geographically, for example. There are various tools on the market to help you do this. There’s also a way to do it for free with Google Fusion. The rest of this post will discuss how to create maps and visualizations with Google Fusion.

If you intend to create a map of your data, the first thing you need to do is figure out what data you want. Create a query in ResultsPlus that qualifies the set of addresses you wish to use. For example, if you want to visualize how your donors are geographically concentrated (where they live), build a query to find all your active donors. Be sure to include Address1, City, State, and Zip code in the field fields you wish displayed in the result. Save the result as a spreadsheet (I used Microsoft Excel).

At this point, you will need to massage your data a wee bit. No worries, though, the steps to do it are below. For Google Fusion to geo-code and map your data, it requires that your address information be combined into a single column. Because ResultsPlus (and most databases) store address information in multiple fields, we will need to add a column to the Excel spreadsheet we just created. Open the spreadsheet you just created and add a column to the end of it. (I named mine “Combined.”) Populate that column by concatenating the Address 1, City, State, and Zip code columns. Here’s an example formula to do that:

=CONCATENATE(C2," ",D2," ",E2,", ",F2)

In the case of my spreadsheet, “C2” is Address1, “D2” is City, “E2” is State, and “F2” is the Zip code. Notice I put a little bit of formatting in there, as well (spaces and a comma), to create separation between the values. The result is that my new “Combined” column has a complete address in it. Save the spreadsheet as a CSV or TAB delimited text file. (Google Fusion cannot take the Excel file format directly.) Before you upload the file, you may want to remove all of the non-combined fields (and especially any columns that contain name information) to ensure you are not accidentally exposing more data to the web than you wish.

At this point your data is ready to be imported into Google Fusion.  For the exact steps to do this, I refer you to a great set of steps I found online.  The steps are incredibly simple to follow.  That being said, there are a few things I'd like to point out to make sure you are aware.

Google Fusion is designed for sharing. Because of this, you need to take special care to ensure you do not accidentally share your data unless that is your intention. In step 6 of the referenced article, there is an “Import New Table” dialog that displays. Be sure to uncheck the option in the following picture. If you do not uncheck this, your data will be available to others for download.

Allow Exports

Later in the walk-through, you will also have the opportunity to manage the sharing of your map. Be sure to configure this for your needs. If you wish to share it online, you can leave it “unpublished” and link to it directly. You can also share it with only specific people who have a need to access it. Another option may be to use a screen capturing tool to take a picture of the map rather than sharing it, if you are concerned about what data you have made available. Just be sure to read Google Fusion’s Terms of Use and abide by them.

A final thought: If you have a lot of data, it can take quite a while to geo-code the file, so be sure you have only the data you really want mapped.

If you have done this and have an experience to share, please do so in the comments section!