Nonprofits and Foundations: Don’t Forget the Infographics

flickr/*raj*I’ve read many articles and posts over the past few years about the nonprofit sector’s inability to manage and share information effectively. (Gee, I’ve even written a couple.) Most of these articles suggest how nonprofits can share information more meaningfully than through reports, and how they can tell stories that convey information in a more powerful, memorable way.

Let me add another important tool to this remedial mix—infographics.

Wikipedia defines them as visual devices intended to communicate complex information quickly and clearly. We’ve all seen examples of them—subway maps, traffic signs, scientific diagrams, and even children’s books. Here’s a good blog post introduction to infographics from InstantShift.

I’ve been intrigued with this field of expertise for a couple of decades, but the sheer volume of information out there now and the leaps made in communications technology have forced an enviable bloom in the field over the past couple of years. (Look at all the examples that pop up when you search in Google images or the flickr infographics pool!)

Right now, infographics are being used most effectively by newspapers and magazines interested in easy-to-understand explanations of complex concepts and relationships. But, some foundations and nonprofits have started to understand the value of this tool to visually simplify information that’s difficult to convey in text. Check out the infographics page on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation site.

Foundations especially have struggled for years to find ways of making their knowledge bases more accessible and understandable…and actionable! Infographics—because they are so quickly understood—can really help build momentum for action.

Let’s look at a few examples of good infographics, so you get the drift. Here are 50 excellent designs compiled by blogger Francesco Mugnai. Check out his other inspirational infographics lists under “related posts” on his blog. Note the flexibility of this medium, able to capture information as disparate as what’s inside Bob Dylan’s brain to the population demographics of the US or global giving patterns for the Haiti disaster (shown on  Information is Beautiful).

In addition to what’s linked above, other online resources offer stunning examples and regular commentary about infographics to spur your imagination.

coolinfographics

francescomugnai

sixrevisions

myvisualvoice

My advice? The next time you encounter difficulty explaining information to your key audiences—don’t forget the beauty of infographics.

CC photo credit: *raj*

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3 Responses to “Nonprofits and Foundations: Don’t Forget the Infographics”

  1. Luise Says:

    Thanks Gayle for including many new references to information graphics sites that I didn’t know about before! It’s true that those outfits that have enough money or tech-savvy (eg. NY Times) are already compiling amazing data visualizations (even interactive!) that help users understand these complex numbers better.

    And we all know there are enough convoluted relationships and hard-to-grasp concepts in the world of philanthropy and nonprofit work. I wish all organizations had the time and means to produce visual representations of their message, impact, need or data.

    I’m sure this is implicit in your post, but let’s also take this opportunity to inspire a bit of critical thinking. When you see information in graphs and charts (or other visuals), take a moment to analyze that data. Ask yourself what’s behind the numbers and the creator’s agenda. Because just as much as these information visualizations can be helpful, they can be misleading. Let’s keep this in mind when both creating and interpreting graphics!

    Thanks again Gayle!
    Luise

  2. Elissa Schloesser Says:

    Gayle – I am doing some research on infographics and their use in the nonprofit sector for an upcoming guide, and I ran across your blog article. Thanks for including my website in your infographics links. I also noticed you had a couple new links that I hadn’t seen yet. Great article! -Elissa


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