Making Numbers Pretty

I don’t know about you, but the thought of staring at graphs and attempting to digest statistical information makes me want to do one of two things: throw up or pass out.

Although others may not be as repulsed by the idea of numbers and statistics as I am, the truth is that many people will overlook percentages, numbers and graphs because they aren’t sure what those all mean. If your organization is number-driven and has plenty of statistical data to measure its accomplishments, allow me to introduce you to your new favorite tool: infographics.

I first learned of these illustrations in an introductory journalism class. The professor showed us a resume that used pictures instead of numbers. Because I’m a visual person, I was instantly drawn to the image. Ever since, I have been intrigued by the value of these visual aids.

Then I read an article by by Matthew Scharpnick titled “How Nonprofits Make Data Fun,” and was reminded of the power of infographics. These powerful tools allow organizations to communicate their efforts and successes in a way that’s fun and engaging.

When done well, infographics can be more persuasive than cold, hard statistics simply because they call to the reader’s attention. If I were to hand you a white sheet of paper with a mess of statistics and numbers in a plain, black font, would you be excited to pick it up and decipher it? I’m going to take a wild guess and say, “No, you wouldn’t.”

Now, imagine that I handed you a colorful piece of paper with pictures, maps, lines and legends? If you’re anything like me, you would see this as a treasure map that’s begging to be looked over. Case in point.

However, when done poorly, these would-be-powerful tools can be confusing or misleading. It’s important that the information is clear and easy to understand. Too many numbers or too many pictures will force your readers to scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Fortunately, many people have made a profession out of taking hard data and turning it into something beautiful. If your nonprofit has the financial means to do so, consider outsourcing the work to someone who is an artist with numbers.

Now that you know what infographics are, I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of them…hopefully your own.

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