Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bravely Going Where No One Has Gone Before: Using Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Prospect Research

Once upon a time (fourteen months ago), in a land far, far away (the conference room down the hall), I was sitting in a meeting with a development officer. We’ll call her Janet. (Wow, this is good stuff – I should go into children’s literature!)

Now, Janet wanted me to do a little prospecting for her. At first I understood everything clearly – she wanted to see total giving, areas of interest, and other usual considerations. Then she said she would like to look at the prospects by MSA. What? “MSA?” I asked. “Is that, like, Majorly Serious Assets?” (Note: I did not actually say this.) Befuddled and perplexed, though not at all grumpy, I set out to find an answer.

And find it I did! MSA. Metropolitan Statistical Area. (“Ah, this makes sense,” she thinks to herself.)

Here’s the simplified version: Metropolitan Statistical Areas are geographic areas that typically include a large city (or cities) at the center, as well as surrounding areas that are socioeconomically tied to the urban center. There are also Micropolitan Statistical Areas, which are for smaller cities. Both Metro- and Micropolitan Statistical Areas are lumped into the category of Core Based Statistical Areas. These areas are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and used by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes.

Here’s the super-simplified version: Think of MSAs as the Greater ________ Area. Greater NYC. Greater Atlanta. Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area. Get the idea?

So, it follows that using MSAs for the purposes of identifying prospects in a certain city can be quite useful. If you’re just looking at street address, you’re bound to miss all the folks in the suburbs.

The challenge becomes finding a way to bring MSAs into your data. Well, my friends: problem solved. Here is a way to get MSAs and corresponding zip codes into a spreadsheet for any or all 50 states. From there you can use your ninja Excel skills (using VLOOKUPS, but that’s for another day) to pull in MSAs based on constituents’ zip codes.
Here are the instructions for running the report (for reference, original found here:

1. First, open this fabulous database run by the Missouri Census Data Center:  (Thanks, MO!)
2. Pick a state or states.
3. Select one or more SOURCE codes. (5-digit zip).
4. Select one or more TARGET codes. (I chose Core Based [Metro/Micro] Statistical Area).
5. I left the default options for weighed variable and export type (population 2010, CSV, codes & names, etc.).
6. Click Run Request button.
7. After it processes, save the CSV as a .txt file, then open it in Excel. Voila!

Now go forth and prospect! Just don’t steal any of mine.

Caroline Rossini, Treasurer, APRA MidSouth

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