Something we are hoping to accomplish by implementing GIS is to reach as many prospective donors as possible and increase the likelihood to donate their milk if possible.
San Jose Connects Mothers to Milk Banks
GIS Provides Insight into Families in Need
The widespread baby formula shortage across the US has ignited fear and desperation among many vulnerable families needing to find a way to feed their infants. Many families have been forced to seek out nutritional alternatives to keep their babies healthy and safe. Typically, newborns in intensive care units, parents who are unable to produce breast milk, health practitioners, and—most recently—parents with limited access to baby formula are the most common recipients of mothers' breast milk. In San Jose, California, Mothers' Milk Bank is providing human milk to feed thousands of medically vulnerable infants and support families in need, quickly and efficiently. When the demand drastically increased this year, the organization recognized the pressing need to inform more community residents about the rapidly growing demand for breast milk donations.
Embracing GIS as a Business Intelligence Tool for Success
Mothers' Milk Bank's mission is to collect human milk donations safely and provide equitable access to this nutritional alternative to as many vulnerable families as possible. The executive director, Jonathan Bautista, had previous experience, while working for a blood bank organization, that showed him the value and effectiveness of using geographic information system (GIS) technology to organize, analyze, and visualize imperative data. To reach more milk donors and educate the local community about the crucial need for donations, he determined that GIS would be the best tool to expand the organization's reach.
Mothers' Milk Bank turned to GIS to do the following:
- Raise awareness of a safe alternative to formula
- Provide an opportunity for women to donate their breast milk
- Identify which communities are most likely to donate
- Use ArcGIS Business Analyst to go through the same process that corporations and stores do to determine their target audience
Prior to implementing GIS into its work, the organization relied on a self-built data management system, which had limited ability to collect data, analyze it, or serve as a tool to make data-informed decisions. Bautista determined that applying a geographic approach, brought location to the forefront by organizing data and providing new insights.
The milk bank is incorporating its current donor data into ArcGIS Pro and layering contextual information—such as socioeconomic background, the location of current donors, and lifestyle data of past and present donors—with ArcGIS Business Analyst.
ArcGIS Business Analyst is a GIS tool with map-based analytics to help users identify, analyze, and share demographic and lifestyle data for accurate reports, strategic planning, and donor outreach. The availability of thousands of datasets in ArcGIS Business Analyst has helped the milk bank determine the characteristics and profiles of eligible donors, identify where they are located, and see which areas need prioritized access to breast milk.
GIS analysis has shown staff that the milk bank's reach extends far beyond the city limit by providing over 860,000 ounces throughout California and across the country. As the demand for breast milk rapidly grows, so does the need for donated milk. Bautista and his team have established a precedent for using a geographic lens to track and understand their work so that other organizations within the Human Milk Bank Association can replicate their efforts.
Connecting Donors to Demand
The creation of maps in ArcGIS Pro allows staff to export the map layers into ArcGIS Business Analyst Web App. This process allows the organization to visualize a combination of its existing data and analyze new data added from the web application. One example of this implementation has been organizing new and existing variables of data to see a comparison between birth rates in an area and the historical total amount of donated breast milk consumption in that area. With the analysis results, the milk bank can determine if its current supply can meet anticipated increase in demand. Additionally, the milk bank can locate where outreach to eligible donors is needed the most.
A complete analysis of demographic, socioeconomic, lifestyle, and other types of crucial data will also help the milk bank make data informed decisions about the needed adjustments in the marketing messaging to eligible donors. So far, the milk bank has determined that most donors are between the ages of 25 and 35 years and are in densely populated areas. However, only 2 percent of eligible donors are donating breast milk. This insight will help the organization adjust its marketing messaging to resonate with young women and target the neighborhoods with the highest population rates. Applying ArcGIS will help Mothers' Milk Bank analyze and map not only San Jose but also other communities in need across the state or the country.
As the demand for breast milk changes over time, the outcome of the milk bank's data analysis will continue to help answer the most pressing questions:
- Are mothers aware that donated breast milk is available?
- Do mothers know they can donate their breast milk to a family in need?
- Where are mothers who are most likely to donate located?
- Which neighborhoods have the highest need?
Providing an Outstanding Example of GIS for Nonprofits
The implementation of ArcGIS has encouraged the milk bank staff members and enhanced their data management workflow. "The [staff] is excited and working to pull information from our database with ArcGIS Pro so that it can later be made public to local residents," Bautista said.
The vision of Mothers' Milk Bank is to lay the groundwork for other, related nonprofits to use GIS as a tool to understand their community and measure their impact. The organization's GIS work will continue to increase community engagement by educating more people on how to become a donor, what it takes to be a donor, and how they can support Mothers' Milk Bank and even become an advocate.
Our staff can complete a deeper analysis of our donor base by using GIS. These tools give us insight about the demographics, socioeconomics, and location data about our current donors. With the analysis results we can craft marketing messaging to target prospective donors by using their location and socioeconomic background data."