Think about the best-selling children’s books you’ve read by famous authors like P.D. Eastman, Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Richard Scarry. In your mind’s eye, I’ll bet you’re conjuring up the bright, colorful images that leapt from the pages as you turned them.

In children’s books, illustrations are as central to the story as the text. They help little ones focus on the most important elements of the tale. They get readers enthusiastic about the material being read. They validate emotions and experiences; convey meaning; carry information; and help young children better understand the written words.

You may not be an Eric Carle (remember The Hungry Little Caterpillar?), but as a nonprofit or association financial professional you have an important story to tell. And, your audience – whether that’s your board, fellow executives, professional peers, donors, or other key constituents – may not want, need, or understand some of the financial complexities you deal with on a regular basis. So, providing them with data that’s presented visually will give you similar benefits to book illustrations.

Data visualization will help you, your team, and your audience:

  • Focus on the information that’s most important
  • Identify patterns and trends in your organization’s finances
  • Illustrate cause and effect
  • Pinpoint any deltas
  • De-emphasize unnecessary/superfluous data
  • Draw faster conclusions

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in graphic or information design to effectively present your data visually. A modern true fund accounting system should do the work for you.

When considering financial software, look for a system that offers you:

  • Real-time financial data, so you’re telling an up-to-the-minute story
  • Dashboards that present clean, clear graphical representations of your data
  • Intuitive features and tools so staff members can get up and running with minimal training and can self-serve, going forward
  • Easy-to-use, drill-down capabilities for greater insight into the numbers
  • Operability on mobile devices, like tablets, for on-the-go access to your financial picture

In today’s information overloaded world, you have to be an effective storyteller. And your story – as a nonprofit or association financial professional – is pivotal, because your financial status and health ultimately determine your organization’s strategic possibilities.