This new mapping tool from Drexel researchers can make it easier for Philly nonprofits to collaborateApril 17, 2018 Category: Featured, Medium, Purpose
Happy Tax Day!
In June 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced it would release all Forms 990 (including Forms 990-EZ and Forms 990-PF) filed electronically from 2011 on in a “machine-readable format” via Amazon Web Services, theoretically making it easier for the public to access and analyze nonprofit tax forms.
That wasn’t the case: Technical issues with the service made the data difficult to use, said Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts and Design researcher Neville Vakharia.
In response, Vakharia led the development of ImpactView, a new mapping tool featuring data on 2,327 nonprofits within Philadelphia city limits.
The tool presents a searchable, visual database through which users can search by clicking around a map of the city, or by searching by organization, address or ZIP code. Users can also add demographic layers such as median income, allowing them to see what type of people live in the area surrounding a particular nonprofit, or filter the map by organization type.
Vakharia, who previously lead Cultural Data Project (now called DataArts) and teaches in Westphal’s graduate arts administration program, said the intention of the project is “to help nonprofit leaders understand both their role within the broader nonprofit ecosystem, as well as the needs of the community they serve.”
Vakharia said he also hopes nonprofit professionals and funders will use the map to better inform themselves about other organizations doing similar work in a given community for the sake of collaboration.
The data presented here isn’t complete: Only about 75 percent of Philadelphia-based nonprofits file electronically, according to Vakharia (compared to about 60 percent of all nonprofits in the U.S.), so the Drexel team pulled the rest of the local Forms 990 from business master files.
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Also, excluded from the IRS’s release were Forms 990-N, filed by tax-exempt organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less — i.e. many grassroots nonprofits.
Demographic data was pulled from the five-year American Community Survey. Vakharia said the team is in the process of determining how to upload new data regularly. The tool was made with open-source software with the help of GIS mapping B Corp Azavea, which means other cities could develop their own version of the map to track their nonprofits.
His team is also seeking funding to keep the tool going or expand its geographic reach — it was launched with the support of the Stanford Center of Philanthropy and Civil Society — as well as feedback. Tell them what you think here.