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Skagit Valley Hospital

Think Outside The Bar Chart



I am a data geek. I love information. I love taking a jumbled set of raw data and turning it into something useful for our clients. I am one of those people who enjoys tweaking with Excel charts and SmartArt to make an appealing visual that instantly conveys the message.

We have so many channels of instant communications available to us. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, and SurveyMonkey – just to name a few – have all broken down the traditional means of gathering feedback and disseminating information to our donors and clients. Never before have nonprofits been able to survey and gather feedback from their constituents so quickly.

But what do you do with that information once you have it? It is so easy to become overwhelmed and then, in turn, overwhelm your constituents with the sheer amount of information available. How do you prevent information from just becoming noise?

Infographics.  Data Visualizations. These are just some of the growing buzzwords about using visuals to engage and inform meaningful data to our clients and constituents. Simply put, an infographic is a way to represent visually a key message in a quickly and easily understood illustration or chart.

A recent article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted the increasing use of infographics among nonprofits. The intent is to take complex ideas or trends and make them accessible to your donors. Seattle nonprofit a child’s right recently created a fantastic infographic to show exactly how a big gift can impact (or not impact) an organization.

The use of good visualizations in communications can help nonprofits better understand trends within their own organization, connect with supporters, advance their mission, and communicate with stakeholders.

Data Without Borders is an organization that connects volunteer data scientists to nonprofits to increase data collection, analysis, and visualization. Check out founder Jake Porway’s presentation at the Pop!Tech conference on the ways organizations are using data visualizations to transform themselves.

Some key things to keep in mind:

Make it simple. If people don’t get it or aren’t drawn in at first glance, they won’t stop to figure it out. Too much information is overwhelming.

Think about the message. What are you trying to explain? What do you want your donors to know?

Share. Ask you colleagues for feedback. Ask them if they understand the message.

Innovate. Look at how other organizations are using infographics, specifically in social media. It’s great to see what other nonprofits are doing and learn from them.

Give credit. As you would in any written report, make sure you reference your sources.

Have fun. One of my favorites! How Beer Saved The World

Some additional resources:


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About the Author

Anne Clark

Anne Clark

Research Associate

Anne’s training as a librarian benefits Collins and clients alike as she researches the latest nonprofit trends and statistics.


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