June 30, 2010; Source: The Independent Weekly | The Acadiana region of Louisiana occupies the lower third of the state surrounding New Orleans. Until Katrina, it was probably best known as the Francophone area of the state. After Katrina, of course, it gained national and international visibility as the primary impact area of the devastating hurricane (and the follow-up hurricanes Wilma and Rita too).

In 2000, community leaders created the entity that eventually became the Community Foundation of Acadiana, covering an eight-parish area of the region, with assets growing to over $40 million at last count. To help its donors understand and reach nonprofits serving South Louisiana, CFA has launched an online nonprofit database offering donors profiles of “effective nonprofits”. For nonprofits trying to reach the otherwise anonymous donors behind the donor-advised funds that a community foundation like CFA manages, getting into this kind of database is an important step.

Published directories of this sort (such as the Catalogues of Philanthropy that cover Massachusetts, metro Washington DC, and a few other areas) seem to have been supported by nonprofits eager for visibility, but the availability of sophisticated online platforms such as GuideStar provide donors with easy access to useful information—except for information about the organizations’ impacts.

CFA is one of 10 community foundations to adopt the DONORSense database model. At this point, there are 73 nonprofit profiles in the CFA DONORSense database. Apparently, groups can submit organizational profiles for inclusion in the database, so CFA doesn’t necessarily endorse or recommend the groups in DONORSense, even though donors can make donations to the groups through the database.

Our limited searches in the database for organizations describing themselves as engaged in affordable housing or community development generated a scanty list, with no inclusion of some groups we know to be active in the CFA catchment area. The idea of a database like this is a good idea, but CFA might want to do some outreach to groups that should be in the database—and groups in South Louisiana should get themselves profiled so that they can be more visible to highly sought after individual donors and donor-advised funds.—Rick Cohen