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Show, Don't Tell: Google Earth Outreach for Nonprofits

Lori Halley 27 October 2008 2 comments

Since the earliest days of world exploration, maps have told compelling stories to people who may never see the places depicted. Topographical lines on paper only go a small way to recreate the traveller's experience, however, and the rest depends on the viewers' imagination. Now, personalized and interactive maps are stretching those boundaries, and helping nonprofits to bring their messages home.

Hundreds of millions of people now use Google Earth and Google Maps to explore the world around them. Google Earth Outreach gives non-profits and public benefit organizations like yours the knowledge and resources you need to... get users engaged and passionate about your work.

"We used to take reporters and decision-makers on day-long tours, first flying over the coal fields and then driving through coal field communities to hear first-hand accounts from local residents," explains Appalachian Voices. "Thanks to Google Earth, a good approximation of that tour is now accessible to anyone with a computer and a high-speed internet connection."

Google Earth and Google Maps let anyone can create a custom map — and share it by sending a link, or embed on a web page. Personalized and annotated, even enhanced with photographs and videos, online maps can help to engage your supporters in a way that bare text never can. New features now let you collaborate with others and import geographical data to customize a map.

Member map banner

You've probably already thought of a couple of ways in which your organization could use a personalized map —  to illustrate your field work, give directions to an event, to explain a travel itinerary, to map the geographical distribution of your members and supporters, to locate resources for field workers and volunteers, and the list of possibilities goes on. 

Visit Google Earth Outreach's showcase of nonprofit case studies for more inspiration.

It's worth noting that no special technical skills are needed to build a personalized Google "My Map" — anyone can make a map, free of charge — and Google Maps alone does offer plenty of features for most of us. But if you've got the know-how and resources, you could create some really innovative map-based presentations using the enhanced features that are available with Google Earth.

As a non-profit organization, you may use Google Earth Free to view and create KML files. Google Earth Free is not to be used for providing a paid service to other companies or organizations, of course, but you are free to post your KML files on your website, or email them to your partners, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries.Compare products to determine whether the free version of Google Earth will work for your project, or whether you need Google Earth Pro.

If your organization needs the full power of the Pro version, you may be eligible for a license grant — organizations with a 501(c)(3) tax status in the United States may apply for a Google Earth Pro license grant, and Google Earth Outreach is also accepting applications from eligible charities based in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 27 October 2008 at 3:36 PM


  • Ashley Messick said:

    Monday, 27 October 2008 at 8:49 PM

    Google Earth was just launched as an iPhone application. I wonder if Google Earth Outreach will somehow be available in that sphere as well. this is just a simple wondering since I do not know much about either (thanks Rebecca for the post to get me thinking) but after reading this post and then reading about and subsequently downloading the new Google Earth for the iPhone it just was a curiosity.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 29 October 2008 at 7:26 PM

    It's a good question, Ashley - and who knows? But as more and more emphasis gets placed on iPhone (and other mobile) users, I expect we;ll just be seeing more and more of what's available on the Web in general move into that sphere - the limitations of mobile technology and expensive bandwidth permitting, of course!

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