Activating Asset Mapping


Course Overview IconTo progress through this course, use the navigation bar on the left side of the page. You can also click on the section titles, which are found at the bottom of each page.

To prepare for this 60-minute course, we encourage you to download this printable packet to help you take charge of your asset mapping endeavors: Asset Mapping Materials.




Welcome AmeriCorps VISTA Community Members!

We hope that this online course will help guide your approach towards asset mapping. This course works to expand your knowledge on asset mapping and effective ways to execute this vital process to accomplish communal goals. You will gain insights on the critical steps required for asset mapping, transitioning from mapping to implementation, and bridging the gap to outside resources.  

The source material for this course is the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute workbook titled A Guide to Mapping and Mobilizing the Associations in Local Neighborhoods. The ABCD Institute promotes the idea that individuals, organizations, foundations, and communities alike are interested in projects that serve to improve communities and strengthen community-based organizations while involving community members and associations in the process.

Additional source material includes The Five Cs Institute, a series of trainings designed for those who are working to build communities and reach deeper into their organizations to build successful improvement strategies. There are a wide variety of self-paced trainings and resources that cover all principles of the Five Cs available on the VISTA Campus.



Learning Objectives

At the completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand why and how an asset map can be valuable to your project and community

  • Identify examples of the assets to be mapped and who will be mapping them

  • Apply a step-by-step process for successful mapping

  • Describe how the asset mapping process and its outcome is valuable to the community selected


Before beginning this 60-minute course, we encourage you to take the brief pre-assessment quiz to identify what topics you already know, and those where you will be able to build new knowledge. 

What is Asset Mapping?

Icon showing a tree, a school, building, and a bus.Asset Mapping is a tool that relies on a core belief of asset-based community development; namely, that good things exist in communities and that those things can be highlighted and encouraged — these are assets suited to advancing those communities.

Asset Mapping is a means, not an end.

As a refresher review the six categories of community assets:

1. Physical Assets

Physical assets in the community include land, buildings, transportation, and facilities that can contribute to community strengthening.

2. Economic Assets

Economic assets include what residents produce and consume in the community, in both formal and informal ways, through local businesses, or bartering and trading relationships, that can contribute.

3. Stories

Stories carry the memory of a community and can describe the potential of a community based on previous times as remembered by those who live there.

4. Local Residents

Local residents are those who live in the community. Residents' skills, experiences, capacities, passions, and willingness can contribute to community strengthening.

5. Local Associations

These include associations in the community primarily run by volunteers, such as athletic clubs, faith-based groups, and others that can contribute.

6. Local Institutions

Local institutions are public spaces in the community such as schools, libraries, parks, and government entities, such as nonprofits.

Who is Asset Mapping About?

Three primary categories of people live in or near your geographic area:

  • Those in your organization

  • Individuals in the community in which you serve

  • Those who live outside the community in which you serve

Resources for your community can be found at three different levels:

  1. Primary Resources are the most accessible, for they are located within and are controlled by members of the community. These could be neighborhood associations and residents.

  2. Secondary Resources are located within the community but are controlled by individuals and/or organizations outside of the community, such as businesses.

  3. Potential Resources are both located and controlled outside of your community. One example is a nonprofit organization who has similar interests and goals.

Icon of a bus going over a bridgeA sustainable and effective community strengthening project will first look to identify and connect assets within the community. After tapping local assets, a project may in fact need to look outside the community to satisfy additional resource requirements.

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]  YOUR TURN: Name the Stakeholders

Use page one in your packet  to list your stakeholders.

  1. First, write the names of the people in your organization who are currently involved in your project.

  2. Next, add the names of those who live in the community in which you serve who can inform your project.

  3. Finally, list individuals who live outside the community in which you serve but may still be interested in what you are doing.

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Why Map - And When?

a map

Too many people map assets for the sole purpose of knowing who or what is in their community or to know the demographics and spaces that can and will be affected by programming decisions.

True mapping of assets is only a means to another end, though, and this end always includes the involvement of the assets that are discovered.

You should create a map:

  • When you are looking for a long-term sustainable grass roots response to a community issue, or
  • When the engagement of the entire community and its resources becomes necessary to adequately respond to a community issue

Name the Neighborhood

magnifying glass iconBefore we dive into the process of mapping, let's identify the types of neighborhoods in which we (and others we know) work, volunteer, and live.


  1. Go to page 2 in your packet. You will find a picture of a neighborhood. Write down an example of this neighborhood in your city or area.

  2. Proceed to page 3. You will find another picture of a neighborhood. Write down an example of this neighborhood in your city or area.

Asset View and Needs View

You may have used two different neighborhoods on pages 2 and 3 of your packet. If this is the case, go back and write both names on each sheet.

Why? Because both handouts represent every neighborhood; however, we are accustomed to referring to some neighborhoods as asset-filled and others as needs-filled.

The difference, therefore, is not in what actually exists, but instead concerns the filters we use when associating with these places. As you move forward with mapping assets - especially in neighborhoods that a person may typically think of as "needy" or "bad" - it is important to believe that the picture on page 3 is also true about the area you will be mapping.

Asset Mapping: 10 Steps

The 10-step process listed below can be followed when you are mapping assets. We'll look at each step in more detail in the following sections of this Map with pins of different sizescourse. 

  1. Determine your purpose for mapping.

  2. Map your organization’s “internal” resources and discover a mapping manager.

  3. Find out who will direct the process after mapping is complete.

  4. Create a geographic focus.

  5. Assemble an advisory group.

  6. Secure funds for the completion of mapping and the larger project.

  7. Utilize multiple tools, methods, and sources to identify and catalog the community's assets.

  8. Ensure storage of correct information.

  9. Prepare to invite individuals and associations to be further involved.

  10. Implement the invitation to further involvement and review your purpose statement.

Notice that this 10-step process reaffirms the idea that asset mapping — or the mapping of resources — is not simply writing down the answer to "What's there?"

Step 1: Determine Your Purpose

Icon for Step OneThe first thing you'll want to do is develop your project purpose or goal. Here are some short examples:

  • "By May 1, we will connect 25 neighborhood associations and develop a formal structure for their participation in community development activities.”

  • "Within 12 months we will mobilize 30 community members to create a neighborhood lending fund."

 What is your purpose for mapping? The following steps will help you find a place to start. 

A Method for Stating Your Purpose

You can follow along using page 4 in your packet.

  1. First, remember that your mapping goal is distinctly different than the overarching goal of what you might do with the information you will eventually have mapped out. For example, your mapping goal might be to identify 30 neighborhood associations interested in developing youth mentoring projects. You'll notice that this goal does not concern the outcome of the mentoring projects, rather it focuses on who will be involved in the implementation of those projects.

  2. Next, start from what will ultimately be the end of your statement. This is where you want to name the focus that other people and associations will be helping you address. Perhaps it's about supporting new business development, creating more effective youth programming, or improving nighttime safety. If you are unsure of an answer, pause the course and brainstorm potential responses with your fellow AmeriCorps VISTA or community members.

  3. Third, it's time to pick what is to be done about your focus. Does it exist yet? If not, then you can write the word "develop." If it already exists and is not quite addressing all the opportunities in your community, perhaps the word "improve" is best.

  4. Answer the question "Who can be involved and how many?" "Wait," you think, "isn't that the point of all this mapping?" You're right — this question is meant to give you a general, yet measurable, focus. Your answer might be "45 leaders who live in the neighborhood" or "27 block clubs."

  5. Next, it's time for you to pick the main action that you'll be undertaking with the people or groups to be involved. You might choose to write "connect," "mobilize," or "gather" here.

  6. Finally, choose an end date for your mapping project. This will be a key in your overall planning. To make it easier, use a time period that begins within, as in "within 12 months." Or, you could choose a specific date with the word by, such as "by October 2."

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Step 2: Map Internal Resources

Icon for Step TwoThe administration of a mapping process is sometimes overlooked because either (1) the mapping is seen as a simple process, or (2) since mapping is a temporary pathway to a larger task, the administration of it is seen as unimportant.

Before you identify any specific asset mapping roles for members of your organization, ask yourself, What behaviors and resources exist internally?

Considering your own organization's assets at the beginning of community strengthening efforts is extremely important.

Here are some reasons why:

  • The staff and organization of your project must recognize their own gifts, and the places to utilize those gifts, before they are truly able to honor the assets of other people and community groups.

  • More gets accomplished through asset-based management. Volunteers and staff produce better results when organizations encourage a strengths-based conversation about recognizing individual and group performance.

  • Appreciative workplace environments reflect positive and proactive attitudes that will in turn be displayed through the staff working in the community.

Example IconYOUR TURN: Map Internal Assets

Use page 18 of your packet to identify your organization’s assets. What strengths within your workplace could translate to your asset mapping procedure?

Now, you are ready to identify your mapping manager.

Identify a Mapping Manager

Ensuring correct coordination and support is essential for the final mapping data to be useful. The mapping manager will have six main focus areas to coordinate, each of which will be covered further in this course:

  1. Convening of the sponsoring group and ensuring that this group is made up of people who live and work in the geographic focus area

  2. Securing necessary funding

  3. Determining ways to discover the assets

  4. Training and supervising the interviewers

  5. Collation of the mapping data

  6. Updating the mapping data for changes and revisions

Be sure your asset mapping manager is capable of completing the related tasks listed above. 

Example IconYOUR TURN: Identify a Mapping Manager

Identify the person who will manage the mapping process. This person could be you or a colleague, or perhaps someone who doesn't work for your organization.

After you have confirmed this person’s involvement, write down the name of this person in page 5 of your packet

Step 3: Identify a Post-Mapping Director

Icon for Step ThreeIt's easy to get caught up in the actual mapping because you meet many new people and discover a lot of exciting information.

You want to ensure, though, that your intention to do more than just collect information includes someone in place to make that outcome a reality.

You will select a project manager who is dedicated to the mapping purpose statement you have developed. This is important because this person will be the one to direct the project and people and/or associations to do the work that inspired your mapping process.

For example, let's use the purpose statement we developed earlier:

"To mobilize 45 leaders who live in the neighborhood to improve nighttime safety."

The person you choose will be the one to bring together the 45 leaders in order to decide how to actually improve nighttime safety, and continue to empower them to direct and influence the project.

Example iconYOUR TURN: Identify a Post-Mapping Director

Identify the person who will lead the process after mapping is complete. This person could be you or a colleague, or perhaps someone who doesn't work for your organization.

After you have confirmed their role, write down the name of this person in page 5 of your packet.


Step 4: Create a Geographic Focus

Icon for Step FourSometimes, the geographic focus for a mapping project can be obvious. For example, if your concern is nighttime safety in the Smith Neighborhood, you may know exactly how to define that neighborhood by certain streets, and everyone who lives nearby would agree with you.

In other instances, there may be greater uncertainty. For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, people refer to one area of the city in at least five different ways, depending on their experiences and understanding of the area's borders. Names for the area include Walker's Point, the Fifth Ward, the Latin Quarter, SoDo (South of Downtown), and South Second.


Define Your Focus

Here are some possible ways to decide the geographic focus of your mapping effort:

  • Know the name of the neighborhood you want to focus on, and you check with residents in that area to make sure there is agreement about the streets or landmarks that define its boundaries.

  • Use a zip code to define your area.

  • Be slightly more lax about the boundaries — obtain a detailed street map from the city or area planning department and draw a general area of focus.

  • Search the website to determine your geographic focus based on demographic information, if your project inherently requires this.

The geographic focus should be practical. If you decide that the geographic focus area of your project is an entire city, this may or may not be a real possibility.

Challenge yourself to consider the practical nature of such a proposal: Do you have the capacity to map a whole city? And, perhaps more important, would focusing on such a large geographic area allow for a successful project to take place after the mapping is done?

Remember: when appropriate, turn your sights to resources that may be available outside of your community to fill any gaps. There may be additional organizations or people who would be integral additions to your asset map.

Example IconYOUR TURN: Geographic Focus

Use page 6 in your packet to identify the geographic boundaries of your asset map.


Step 5: Convene the Advisory Group

Icon for Step FiveThe advisory group is a collection of active volunteers. It is not just a dozen people filling a board room to oversee a mapping project. The advisory group has two main roles: (1) the mapping manager, and (2) the surveyors.

Ideally, the surveyors should be people who live in the geographic focus area. You can find surveyors at local job banks, through word of mouth, and from community-based organization referrals. 

Local residents are of a unique importance in this process. Local residents possess exclusive knowledge of the area, and they provide legitimacy to the future project to be established based on the mapped data.

Exercise IconYOUR TURN: Create an Advisory Group

Refer to page 7 in your packet. Document some places where you may find advisory group members.


Step 6: Secure Funds

Icon for Step SixKnowing your budget is important before proceeding with a mapping project. This section helps you determine if you require funding and if so, how much.

Ask yourself the following questions and consider the answers before continuing this course:

  • How will we compensate our surveyors?

  • How much will our materials cost?

  • Will we need additional software or hardware to track our data?
  • Is the mapping manager a salaried position?

  • Will we require food to be available for meetings?

  • Are there mobile phones, transportation, meeting space, or other expenses we have not yet considered?

  • Who can provide financial or in-kind support? Agencies, foundations, corporations, businesses, and/or individuals?

Remember to consider all funding options when developing your budget. Volunteering, bartering, in-kind donations of items and space, pot lucks, and funds that exist within a community are all options that can reduce the time you spend tracking down external monetary resources.

Example IconYOUR TURN: Create a Budget

Turn to page 8 in your packet. Begin outlining potential expenses for your asset mapping program.

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Step 7: Ensure Uniform Documentation

Icon for Step Seven

A field information log is essential to the success of the mapping process. Information that you might track in this log includes:


  • Date of entry

  • Source of information (such as direct contact, a newspaper listing, or a referral)

  • Name of person or association

  • Job title or association type and contact person (it is vital to have a contact person for groups so you can move forward in a later step if you decide to invite an association to be further involved)

  • Physical address

  • Mailing address, if different than physical address

  • Phone

  • E-mail

  • Website

  • Special meeting times of sub-groups, if an association, or groups to which a person belongs

  • Comments

  • Surveyor initials

Example iconYOUR TURN: Data Tracking

Refer to page 10 of your packet. Create a form that includes as many needed fields to assist your team in documenting necessary information.


Storing Information

It is important to have easy access to the data collected by the advisory group. Paper copies are essential, but a computerized database will offer quick search and sorting capabilities.

A program like Google Drive is meant to be a computational tool, but it can double as an easy, low-cost solution. Useful options, though possibly more complex, include programs like Microsoft Access or FileMaker.

Whatever you choose, be sure that more than one person can understand and access the database to establish availability and shared data entry.

Exercise IconYOUR TURN: Storing Your Data

Refer to page 9 of your packet. What potential solutions could you use to store the information you collected? Use this page to track your research.


Step 8: Utilize Your Sources

Icon for Step EightMany people might think of mapping assets as collecting data via door-to-door interviews throughout a neighborhood. This is one way to do the mapping, but it is not the only viable method. Listed below are five other ways to map assets:

  1. Review public sources, such as newsletters, weekly newspapers, bulletin boards, and directories.

  2. Interview leaders at associations (usually less formal clubs or groups) and formal institutions (such as nonprofits or local businesses).

  3. Sit down with community activists where they work.

  4. Conduct telephone surveys.

  5. Brainstorm or focus a search based on association types.

Example IconYOUR TURN: Mapping Methods

Turn to page 11 of your packet. Which methods work the best for your community’s needs?


Association Categories

The list of organizations to survey can be daunting. To help you get started, here is a list of some types of categories of associations:

  • Addiction prevention and recovery groups
  • Animal care groups
  • Anti-crime groups
  • Block clubs
  • Business organizations/support groups
  • Charitable groups
  • Civic events groups
  • Cultural groups
  • Disability/special needs groups
  • Education groups
  • Elderly groups
  • Environmental groups
  • Family support groups
  • "Friends of..." groups
  • Health advocacy and fitness groups
  • Heritage groups
  • Hobby and collectors groups
  • Men's groups
  • Mentoring groups
  • Mutual support leagues
  • Neighborhood improvement groups
  • Political organizations
  • Recreation groups
  • Religious groups
  • Service clubs
  • Social cause/advocacy/issue groups
  • Social groups
  • Union groups
  • Veteran's groups
  • Women's groups
  • Youth groups


Interview Public Sources

In step 7, we reviewed the types of data that you will be collecting during the mapping process. Next, we reviewed places to go to do the actual mapping. What about when you are "interviewing" a public source?

Here are some hints for organizing those types of data-gathering missions:

  • Skip to the community events section of the weekly newspaper.

  • Ask for mailing lists of other organizations.

  • Get out the telephone book to find associations that meet in your geographic focus area.

  • Be creative about where bulletin boards are: libraries, coffee houses, beauty shops, bowling alleys, banquet halls, recreation centers, malls, community centers, barber shops, and municipal buildings.

  • Locate calendars with association meetings on them published by umbrella groups, such as the police or park districts.

  • Ask your local hospital and community centers about mutual support groups.

Exercise iconYOUR TURN: Conduct an Interview

Refer to page 12 of your packet. Schedule a time to interview a colleague or friend. Practice makes perfect! The more comfortable you are with the interview process, the more thorough information you will obtain.

Also, remember that a successful surveyor is not necessarily a great interviewer. He or she may not be comfortable making phone calls, but can be successful poring over newsletters and visiting bulletin boards throughout the community. Refer to page 13 in your packet to identify some public resources you can “interview.”


Step 9: Prepare For Further Development

Icon for Step NineYou might be thinking:

"So, I have a bunch of data about people and groups in the geographic focus area, but I still really don't know anything about how those people or associations can be involved. In fact, I haven't even spoken to most of these people since I found out about them through newspaper listings or referrals. What’s my next move?"

This is the type of realization that helps push your project from merely making a directory of interesting things to become an actual asset mapping undertaking. In other words, it's nearly time to invite individuals and associations to be further involved.

First, revisit your purpose statement. This is a good time to reflect on your timeline and what it really means. How much time do you have to realize the goals in this statement? Let your statement of purpose dictate your next move.

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Four Things to Do Before Involving Others

Before contacting your identified organizations for support and involvement, thoroughly prepare your next move. Here are four steps you can take to ensure that you are comfortable discussing your program and organization with others.

1. Create an elevator speech – a short and meaningful speech - that includes:

  • Your main reason for mapping assets;

  • Your general hopes for the future project;

  • Why you hope the mapped person would be involved.


2. Develop the content for your guiding questions. These can include questions such as:

  • When was your group founded?

  • Who started this group?

  • What are the group's significant accomplishments?

  • Do you have a membership structure?

  • Who are members? What are their characteristics?

  • What are your current or prior collaborations?

  • What is your current activity in economic development projects? Other neighborhood projects?


3. Make sure you include an invitation (and a record of the response to it) that reflects your purpose statement. If your statement includes engage 45 leaders to improve nighttime safety, ask the person if they would be interested in being listed as one of the people who will be invited for the initial convening. This way, you can report that you have begun the engagement process.



4. When faced with a large list of potential collaborators, get organized to maximize your time. Here are suggested ways to maximize your time and reduce the number of people to be further involved:


  • Develop a project worksheet. Assign each name to a category: Planner, Future Implementer, or Mailing List Member. Contact the planners first: those are the people who would be convened by the future project director. You can work in tiers to engage the rest of your list.

  • Narrow your geographic focus from earlier and speak only with those who fall within your newly defined space. This will more than likely happen for the mapping managers who decided to use a lax geographic boundary at first.

  • Randomly select those to interview. If you move forward with the assumption that all potential individuals and associations have assets, you can reach out to a variety of people knowing that they all have something valuable to offer.

Step 10: Implement the Invitation

Icon for Step TenIt's time for you and the surveyors to implement the invitation to further involvement. There are four basic methods to inform your potential collaborators of your program’s details:


  1. Face-to-face: An in-person individual interview. The most personal interview, which allows for open questions and greatest dialogue. It also requires the longest amount of time.

  2. Group-administered: A number of people attend an interview session together, or you invite a number of people to complete surveys in the same room so that you are available to answer any questions that may arise.

  3. Self-completed: Mailed or e-mailed surveys that are due back to you by a certain date.

  4. Live virtual: Depending on your audience, this could be a telephone interview or an interview performed via webinar or social media.

Challenges and Opportunities

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]The primary challenge of mapping is ensuring that your asset map stays true to the activation of community members and does not result in a simple directory of names and numbers or a physical map of a neighborhood.

Other challenges and opportunities include:

  1. Viewing other people and places as asset-based throughout the program. Most people who map assets will be challenged at some point to believe that a person or a place has inherent gifts or abilities that can help future projects.

  2. Your data will be more valuable if the people you are trying to engage are involved in the implementation and direction of your mapping project. You may have a hard time reaching your projected number of people to engage if the community you are trying to support does not support you in the overall mapping undertaking.

  3. You will discover a lot of great things about an area once you really start looking for them. Make sure not to lose focus. Your purpose statement will help you succeed within a specific timeframe and for the number of people and/or associations you hope to involve.

From Mapping to Involvement

One arrow splitting into twoIt’s now time to integrate your asset mapping activities – including your mapping efforts and follow up discussions - into your program.         

To increase the success of transitioning from the mapping process to the project that inspired this effort, try a tool called Connecting.

Exercise iconYOUR TURN: Make the Connection

Before beginning, refer to page 17 in your packet.

  1. In the center circle, write the focus of your purpose statement. For example, "nighttime safety."

  2. Then, write four of the names of the people or associations you have engaged for the outcome project, one in each square. (Write some potential names if you haven't yet completed mapping.)

  3. On the arrow leading from a potential name to the center circle, write the way in which that person or association can influence the project's focus.

  4. On the arrow leading from the center circle to the potential name, write the benefit that influence will bring to that person or association

This tool allows you to visually communicate the importance of involving engaged community members in future efforts.

Course Summary

Course summary iconWe hope that you now feel comfortable encouraging volunteers to effectively:

  • Discovering why and how an asset map can be valuable to your project and community

  • Identifying examples of the assets to be mapped and who will be mapping them

  • Applying a step-by-step process for successful mapping



Additional Resources

Additional resources iconAdditional VISTA Campus Resources

The Five Cs Institute materials  are designed for those who are working to build communities and reach deeper into their organizations to build successful improvement strategies. There are a wide variety of self-paced trainings and resources that cover all principles of the Five Cs available on the VISTA Campus.




What Have You Learned?

Now that you have completed this course, test your knowledge by taking this brief assessment.

The Fine Print

This material is based upon training and technical assistance supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that helps more than 5 million Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service. Working hand in hand with local partners, they tap the ingenuity and can-do spirit of the American people to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation. They invest in thousands of nonprofit and faith-based groups that are making a difference across the country.

Campaign Consultation, Inc. has extensive experience in helping people acquire the confidence, skills, and resources to design and advance “out of the box” strategies for goal achievement. Since 1998, Campaign Consultation, Inc. continues to serve as the training/ technical assistance provider for all areas related to resource gathering for the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

Copyright © 2014

Campaign Consultation, Inc.

All rights reserved

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Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Upon request, material will be made available in alternative formats for people with disabilities.

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