Best practices for nonprofit data visibility

Fundraising strategies can be charted using data visualization.
Date Published
07/24/2015

Modern nonprofits are working with a lot of information. During a fundraising campaign, data is pouring in from donations, marketing techniques, online sources, volunteers and multiple other sources.

Actions performed by an organization need to be analyzed to determine best practices and avoid repeating missteps. Making data visible to every member of a nonprofit ensures they are making informed decisions and using proven strategies for fundraising.

Getting started as soon as possible
Data can be stressful. When an organization starts contemplating how many metrics could be used to measure fundraiser success, the task may seem daunting.

The key is to start small and expand as needed. It can begin with the simple question of how the number of volunteers impacts the amount of funds raised during a public event. Organizations should chart these numbers for the entire nonprofit to view. Huge deviations from expectations will require further inquiry and then data can be collected to answer the most pressing concerns.

Markets for Good recommended nonprofits begin by using simple tools like Excel to collect numbers from fundraising campaigns and PowerPoint to display results for board members and organization staff. Nonprofit’s should see the benefit of sharable, easy-to-understand information right away.

Use better data
Once a nonprofit outgrows basic data reporting strategies, software tools should be adopted to keep up with the needs of the modern world.

Nonprofit software makes fundraising simpler by automating tasks and streamlining communications. Tech tools send out regularly scheduled messages and solicitations, simplify the online donation process, segment audiences based on assigned criteria and collect data about procedures and participants. Every time a social media campaign or email marketing strategy is deployed, a properly implemented software solution can track the process in the form of hard data. The numbers collected can be divided into specified fields to track the performance of particular donor groups or nonprofit programs.

The software itself provides visual results. Web modules can generate donation tallies and bar graphs are created based on software-deployed surveys. The information is visible for every user and it can be delivered to contributors and partners. Nonprofits could also get creative by using the information provided to create huge celebratory posters and video campaigns.

Creating intriguing visuals
Data visualization makes information meaningful and engaging. While the organization may derive the necessary data from simple numbers, clearly demonstrating successes and failures in dynamic images can motivate donors or inspire volunteers.

The Beth Kantor Blog provided some suggestions for effective nonprofit data visualization. First of all, the proper metrics must be chosen. A nonprofit has to decide which key areas need the most evaluation. Organizations need to be aware of what kind of story they are telling and which visual information reinforces its goals.

The graphs and charts have to be clearly labeled for new observers. Nonprofit organizations have to avoid fudging numbers in pursuit of dramatic images. Shocking numbers should always be included, though. If a graph shows massive success, then it is a clear indication that a fundraising strategy must be continued and developed. If a huge decline is visualized, it motivates immediate action toward improvement.

People communicate what they want to see
Nonprofits need to collect information on all procedures; this means they have to gather the information provided by data visualization itself. As an organization employs the strategy, feedback informs nonprofit members how to improve future use of the technique.

If a nonprofit wishes to use data visualization to demonstrate the success of programs to donors, the reactions of the audience should be collected to determine which metrics and images were most effective. Maryland Nonprofits shared the example of a drug rehabilitation program that needed to add more segments to its pie graphs to demonstrate the real impact of its activities. Early charts were too simple and partners were confused. Initial visual data demonstrations may not yield the results nonprofits are hoping for, but this doesn’t mean the tool has to abandoned, just reevaluated using more information.

Donors communicate with nonprofits about the results they wish to see. Volunteers should be encouraged to share what strategies encouraged them to contribute their time to a cause. Nonprofit software gathers all of this information and makes it available to users. Data visualization can improve every part of a nonprofit’s procedures, even data visualization.

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