The widespread adoption of data visualization in news sources and business reports has spurred the fundraising industry to adopt data visualization in its reporting. Management and staff request data visualization, often in the form of dashboards, for fundraising teams to monitor and report on production toward goals and to inform strategy development. While data visualization can help viewers understand and remember tremendous amounts of data, getting data organized and digestible can be a challenge for analysts and prospect management teams creating these dashboards.

5 Data Visualization Tips

5 Data Visualization Tips

With so much data available to the designers of dashboards, it can be difficult to know how to get started in displaying the correct type of information. Below are our five tips for getting started on creating your dashboard.

  1. Determine the audience. Establishing who will be consuming the data is paramount to having a successful dashboard. What a board needs to know to make informed decisions about the trajectory of your organization is very different than what a major gift officer needs to know to perform his/her duties. Some viewers may prefer tables, while others may be more comfortable with trend lines or text.
  2. Decide what to display. Dashboards are used to display metrics or to review day-to-day operations to help evaluate strategies and progress toward goals. If irrelevant information is used in a dashboard, then the purpose of the visualization may become diluted and ineffective. Discussing necessary data will guide the story and purpose of the dashboard.
  3. Choose the data. With all the data available in your CRM and finance department, knowing what data to use can be daunting. For example, the question, “How long are prospects staying in the discovery stage?” will guide queries that are pulled and how calculations on data should be made. This stage may require the compilation of several data sets, so keeping your data well-organized and labeled will help as visualization occurs.
  4. Create the visuals. We know that making a bar chart is easy with tools like Excel or Tableau, but learning how to display the information in the correct format and flow is just as valuable as refining what goes into a dashboard. Choosing what graphics to use and the position of information will enhance the dashboard’s readability, understanding, and usefulness.
  5. Share the information. When designing the dashboard, keep in mind how the data will be distributed. If the dashboard will be distributed in PDF form, ensure that the images are static. If the images are being printed or displayed on a projector, make sure that there is contrast in the colors. Also make sure the tones are distinguishable so that individuals who are color blind can read them. If the dashboard is being circulated live, protecting the document or specific sheets or cells may be necessary.

Once these five elements are combined and the dashboard has been created, the added value  to your fundraising team will be substantial. Colleagues and boards will be able to better track goals and metrics that matter to your institution and its success. Asking colleagues for feedback on your dashboards will help you enhance them even further to meet their needs. After a few dashboards have been deployed, you may consider different data visualization options for dashboards and make the leap to visualization software.

Bentz Whaley Flessner can partner with you and your team to make sure the right data is making in the right forms to the right people. To learn more please contact us at (952) 921-0111 or visit Together we transform philanthropy.

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