In an earlier blog, we shared how organizations can make data visualization work for them. We covered insights about the data visualization process including storytelling, using too much data, using the wrong data and more. If you are using data visualization and have not read that post, we encourage you to check it out.

Today, we would like to focus on charities using data visualization. Sharing data visually in the form of a story is one of the most effective ways charities can communicate with their audiences. Here are three ways charities can lay a strong foundation with their thinking before creating data visualizations.

  1. Understand the details in your audiences. We use the plural for audience, because you may have one audience, but, in reality, you have sub-audiences within your audience. For example, your audience age may range from millennials to baby boomers. All age ranges believe in your overall message, but millennials may believe in your message for a reason different from the baby boomer. To understand what is important to your audiences and how they receive and retain information, you need to go to your data sources. Your data sources will open your eyes with data proof about the details, so you can truly understand each sub-audience and create a stronger bond. Just as a marketer needs to understand where their audience is in the buyer’s journey so they can effectively share the right information, an organization needs to know how their audience receives and interacts with information.
  2. Tell your data story in different data visualization formats. When you understand what is important to your audiences, you can visualize your story in a way that most effectively resonates with them. If you have one visualization to share your data story to the whole audience, you are likely to alienate a sub-audience because the visualization is too superficial or too deep or one value is less important than another value. As an example, sharing your data story as an infographic may help you communicate to one sub-audience with one value, but an interactive dashboard where the user can visually different scenarios may be effective for another group because they are interested in multiple values. This is the part that may take more time and energy, but it is well worth it, otherwise, you are creating more disconnects than connections.
  3. Don’t fall into the trap of assumptions. It is easy to make assumptions about audiences when you have frequent interaction with them. This can actually hurt a charity, especially when the interaction is more frequent with one of the sub-audiences over another. Without knowing it, the sub-audience becomes the voice for the whole audience. Getting into the habit of checking your assumptions and questions against your data will minimize inaccuracies and wrong conclusions about other sub-audiences. American historian, Daniel J. Boorstin quotes, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” Don’t let your “illusion of knowledge” pollute your data visualization.

Incorporating these attributes into the foundation of your data visualization goals, charities will be able to grow their audience and strengthen their audience relationships. Data visualization is a tool to make this happen when it is used correctly, but without these foundation attributes, it could actually be a tool working against you. Is your data visualization resonating with your audiences or is it pushing them away? Now is the time to assess your 2017 data visualization efforts with 2018 around the corner.