Nonprofits often struggle to engage donors and constituents in their work. Often, their work, whether it is in the arts, human services, healthcare, humane societies, or education, remains hidden.
But the more work remains hidden from the public, the less interest and engagement a nonprofit will experience. Raw facts and figures aren’t interesting. People have trouble understanding and interpreting data. Although sites like Charity Navigator do a good job of providing basic metrics, they fail to put a face or a name to the work done by each nonprofit.
That’s where data visualization comes into play. The data your organization collects can be a powerful ally in your quest to reach more constituents, deliver programs and services, and engage donors.
What Is Data Visualization?
Data visualization uses information (data) and transforms it into charts, graphs, and other pictorial representations (visualization).
People tend to have a very hard time putting data into context. A list of years and the number of people who contract a disease vs. those who die from it lacks context. Change that list into a picture, and it’s easier to imagine that 1 out of every 5 people will die from cancer in a given year.
How Does Data Visualization Work?
Many organizations add business intelligence, or BI software, to their basic accounting systems to add data visualization capacities to their overall system. This helps them:
- Prepare better annual reports by including robust charts and graphs
- Engage the media in your work by sharing story-based graphics reporters can use
- Publish visualizations to their website and donor sites, adding information in a format easily understood by constituents
- Apply for grants with clearer and better information
A Tale of Tails: Data Visualization in Action
The Best Friends Society seeks to transform shelters into no-kill shelters, or shelters where animals are not humanely euthanized but kept at the shelter until adopted. The organization had collected data from 2015 on the state of animal adoptions nationwide but needed a way to publish it so that visitors to their site and people interested in their work could understand the urgent need to save more companion animals.
The organization responded to the challenge by investing in data analytics and business intelligence that transformed raw data into engaging, responsive graphics on their website. The resulting data visualizations may be seen on many pages on their site, for example, such as the interactive map of the United States that responds to changing demographics as the dataset is updated in the background.
According to Michael Kabella, interim CIO of Best Friends/Save Them All, in a streaming interview entitled Making Data Actionable: How Best Friends Animal Society Scaled Innovation on Behalf of 6M Furry Friends “ … the new dataset, being able to interact with it in new ways, allowed our mission, advancement, and programming teams, to really make informed, strategic, and tactical decisions that often, in the past, might have been driven by an intuition.”
He also relayed positive responses and benefits from sharing the new data visualizations with supporters and donors. “We also found out that our supporters and donors really responded positively to the visuals. It gave them an ability to identify with the information in a way that previously they hadn’t been able to with a spreadsheet of data. Because of that, we saw an impact on life saving and on donations.”
Cloud-based software is rapidly making robust nonprofit accounting software more affordable. It’s also easier to add on business intelligence and data visualization tools than ever before. Considering that nonprofits like Best Friends/Save Them All believe that adding this software made a big difference on saving the lives of companion animals, it may be worthwhile investigating it for your organization.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at (206) 605-3113 for more information.