What is data visualization and how can it help your nonprofit organization?
Data visualization. Statistical graphics. Information design. Infographics. No matter what you call it, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about taking increasing amounts of complex data and synthesizing it into an easy-to-digest visual diagram. To understand how to use the power of data visualization effectively, it’s important to understand what data visualization really means and why it has suddenly become such a hot topic.
More data is being generated now than ever before. In the nonprofit world, this may be constituent information, funding sources, website analytics, event results, or any other activity that generates substantial data. It’s often a lot to take in, and overwhelming to process in a way that produces a clear course of action.
In a nutshell, data visualization is a way to take all of that complex data and package it in a way that can be fun, informative and easy to understand. The goal is to make complex data simple, not just to produce a pretty illustration.
Data visualization comes in many forms
For many people, “data visualization” means infographics. We’ve all seen them, those pretty illustrations that often get passed around the home or office. While infographics are a very important part of data visualization, there are also many other forms that data visualization can take such as:
- interactive dashboards;
- graphs; and
The different forms of data visualization serve a unique purpose and all can be customized to an organization’s specific needs.
How is data visualization useful for my nonprofit organization?
Imagine being able to see—at a glance—the demographic makeup of your donor base. By creating a visual summary of your donors’ average age, income, donation amount, communication preferences, etc. you would be able to better focus your fundraising efforts moving forward.
Interesting data visualization can also be a powerful marketing tool for your organization. Plan UK created an eye-opening infographic on the dramatic difference between girls’ lives in the UK compared to developing countries. Well-designed infographics have a tendency to spread through the internet quickly, increasing your organization’s brand awareness.
An emerging use of data visualization is in describing how an organization spends its donors’ gifts. As we know, nonprofits are under increased scrutiny as to how their donations are used. An effective visualization can be much more powerful than a standard pie chart displaying how a nonprofit spends their money. Time spent producing a compelling graphic can really pay off in increased donor confidence.
At the end of the day, there are many ways your nonprofit organization can use data visualization to its advantage.
Next steps for your organization
We’ve compiled a few resources for you to learn more about data visualization, where to get inspired and how to get started. We hope they help!
- Philanthropy.com has a gallery of data visualizations prepared by nonprofits
- Visual.ly is an entire website devoted to the art of infographics and data visualizations
- Dundas Data Visualization is a Toronto company focused on developing custom interactive dashboards
- Visualizing Information for Advocacy is a free .pdf download introducing the basics of data visualization for nonprofit organizations