Geographic information systems in the social sector: trends, opportunities, barriers, and best practices

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Stephanie Jane Edwards (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Rick Bunch

Abstract: There has been a rapid adoption of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the government and commercial sectors over the past several decades, while the social sector (aka "nonprofit sector") has lagged behind. This study addresses a gap in the literature regarding GIS in the social sector, highlighting unique characteristics and trends in the sector related to GIS utilization, in order to support the development of custom GIS adoption strategies. An online survey regarding GIS adoption and perception was conducted among nonprofit organizations in Guilford County, North Carolina and then statewide across North Carolina. Analysis of results found some level of in-house familiarity with GIS to be moderately common, but adoption rates are low. Most current GIS use is multi-modal, with in-house being the most common reported mode. A need for GIS training/education from an external source is demonstrated in survey findings. Respondents most commonly were unable to determine the level of usefulness GIS could provide. Cross-tabulations showed that familiarity, adoption and positive perception of GIS increase with total annual budget size. Findings also suggest a relationship between an organization's investment in key categories (information technology, research, and strategic planning) and GIS adoption. Significantly higher GIS adoption rates were found among nonprofits with partner organizations that also use GIS, while working relationships with government agencies and other nonprofits were prevalent. This finding suggests that a viral approach to GIS adoption in the social sector may be helpful.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
GIS, GIS adoption, Nonprofit, Nonprofits, Social sector, Spatial analysis
Geographic information systems
Nonprofit organizations $z North Carolina $z Greensboro

Email this document to