Most of us have heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Now, our graphical visuals are worth more than a thousand words, they’re priceless – and can make or break a nonprofit organization.

Translating financial performance isn’t always easy, but with the right tools, you can turn complex data into a simplified story. Let’s look below at the many benefits of using visual data:


  • Demonstrate performance with evidence
  • Pinpoint emerging trends and patterns easily
  • Absorb and comprehend with speed
  • Enable predictable outcomes for establishing leadership confidence
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Determine size of opportunities
  • Prevent fraudulent activities before unrepairable damage
  • Establish prompt audit trails

Although most professionals are familiar with tables and charts, we should reference the list of options below for keeping our reports to executives, stakeholders, and/or board members fresh and visually appealing. Knowing who your audience will include always helps to determine what data you need to demonstrate and persuade. And, knowing the story you want to tell (analyzing the data) tells you which data visualization type to use.

Common Types of Visual Data

  • Line charts:

Visuals 1

  • Bar graphs – Column, stacked, horizontal:

Visuals 2

  • Pie charts – Imagine how we used to create this type of chart with just a column of data per line, versus having a visual to quickly indicate where costs are being allocated, for example:

Visuals 3

  • Map charts
  • Line charts
  • Gauge charts
  • Scatter and/or bubble plots
  • Spider charts
  • Tables
  • Area charts

Seeing data visuals is knowing and believing with confidence. Seek out solutions that offer reporting and dashboards, as they are the digital age tools for big data. Having the ability to display key performance indicators (KPIs) for both quantitative and qualitative data analyses will help accelerate decisions and progress the organization forward. Through the art of simple visual data communication, you can translate intelligence and insights into the story that matters most to your audiences.