Who is served by NNIP help desks?
An important consideration in forming a data help desk is the questions of who the help desk should serve. Only 30 percent of NNIP Partner organizations place formal restrictions on who is eligible for assistance. Three-quarters of partner organizations with restrictions base eligibility on the type of organization asking a question. For example, four of those with restrictions accept questions from students and individuals to focus their resources on local community groups, government agencies, and residents. Also, out of the twelve organizations that have formal restrictions, 58 percent of partners only answer questions from organizations within their metro area. Several other partner organizations have informal restrictions in place. For example Memphis does not have formal restrictions, but “conveys to businesses that [they] do not assist with marketing, but will attempt to be helpful with regard to community development.”
The solution to choosing a user base varies by location and according to each organization’s overarching goal. The most common and best practice is to prioritize between building relationships and maintaining focus in certain geographies or groups, and then setting formal, informal, strict, or loose restrictions accordingly. Then, when implementing the help desk most organizations choose to allocate resources when answering requests based on their relationship with the partner, followed by the complexity of the request, and the type of organization making the request, all in a timely manner.
The types of organizations that ask questions vary by partner. Most partners say that they often receive questions from non-profit, government, and advocacy organizations, and that they rarely receive questions from non-media, for-profit firms. Additionally, one partner mentioned that the number of questions varies depending on certain projects or issues in the community. Most partner organization report that requests are for grant purposes, but can also be for program planning and research, and requests are less frequent for news articles.