In my forthcoming book, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” co-authored with KD Paine, my favorite chapter was about the sense-making process of measurement – called “Measurement and the Aha! Moment—Using your data to tell stories, make decisions, and change the world.” There’s where I discovered a new passion – data visualization techniques for sense-making. The process of translating your spreadsheet into an infographic can help lead you to insights and the product, the infographic itself, is a good way to report your results as this example of a quarterly dashboard report from DoSomething.Org illustrates. It can also make using data fun!
Here’s 5 infographics that will help you get up to speed about using visualization processes to generate insights from data.
1: What is an infographic?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” An infographic (short of information graphic) is a picture that blends data with design, storytelling, and insights that helps nonprofits concisely communicate messages to their audiences. While infographics are used to share marketing messages, they can also be used for reporting because visualizing the data can convey complex information to an audience in a way that can be quickly consumed (“at a glance”) and easily understood. To create a good infographic, it requires a blend of skills: data visualization, sense-making, and information design.
2: Understand and Communicate Why Infographics Are Important To Senior Management
Vision is our primary sense and we use it to differentiate and learn the nature of everything around us by recognizing patterns. Even the sentence you are reading right now are a prime example of our unique ability to recognize patterns. Visualizations – or making pictures from lots and lots of text makes it easy for us to digest information and more quickly understand it. With more and more information and data in our daily lives, our culture and way of working is going more visual. This has some implications for your marketing strategy and there are compelling reasons to incorporate visual content creation. And if you need to make the ROI argument on why you are spending time and resources on creating visuals, here’s a list of the tangible and intangible benefits of adding infographics to your marketing and reporting mix.
3: An Infographic – Yes or No?
Infographics are shiny objects that everyone wants to use. There are some fantastic infographics produced everyday, but there are also ones that just terrible because the data is poorly visualized or the visualization does it show good thinking. Bad infographics can be misleading, confusing — or simply wrong. Or just plan ugly and silly. If your nonprofit social media team is trying to decide whether or not to create and use an infographic as part of its marketing strategy or reporting process, here’s a decision-making tree. I would argue that incorporating a visualization process as part of your regular reporting on results will improve your data sense-making skills.
3: What’s the point? And What’s Your Points?
If you have decided that your nonprofit is going to use an infographic, figure out your goal. Infographics can be used in different and creative ways and some obvious ones such as marketing messaging, educating about a social issue, to celebrate a successful campaign, to report to stakeholders on key performance metrics, an annual report, and even a marriage proposal! Need some more ideas? Check out my pinterest board “Nonprofit Infographics.”
5: Use Best Practices
Whether you decide to take the DYI route or hire a graphic designer, use best practices in designing your infographic. If you lack graphic design skills, you should sketch out your insights and main ideas. Here’s one of the best guides on the topic, chocked full of tips, examples,and how tos. You will also want to read up on data visualization for nonprofits and here’s an excellent advocacy guide. If you want to create your own infographics, here’s a list of 100 tools, many are free or just use this shorter list of do-it-yourself infographics for non graphic designers.
Nonprofit Infographics Pinterest Board: a collection of examples of infographics used by nonprofits for different purposes
Visual Marketing Tips, Tools, and Resources: a curated resource collection of practical information for different approaches for visual marketing
Data Visualization: a curated collection of resources for nonprofits who want to incorporate data visualization into their measurement and learning activities
Has your nonprofit used infographics as part of its reporting process on results or other uses? What are your challenges? Please share your story in the comments!