Tip of the Day: When Does an Infographic Make Sense?

Editor’s note: All this month we’re publishing tech tips for nonprofits. Keep a look out for a new tip each day and let us know what you think in the comments. -Dan 

As we strive to measure our work more closely and track a number of metrics about the health of our organizations and programs, we're up to our eyeballs in data. How can we make sense of it all?

Infographics—essentially any combination of information and image used to tell a story by visually representing data—provide one answer to that question. However, fueled by ease of sharing through social media, we're now almost as overwhelmed with images as we once were with data. We're right back where we started. How can we make sense of it all?

When thinking about infographics, the key is to understand when—and when not—to use one. Here are five basic factors to consider when using an infographic:


Images with a broad appeal might be easily and quickly passed from friend to friend via Facebook and Twitter, for instance, until they reach people well outside your organization’s network—an exponential growth called “going viral.”


A large amount of data can overwhelm potential readers, but an infographic can serve as a powerful means of conveying one key piece of information with two or three data points that support your message. It can guide your viewers to the same conclusion as a report if it’s straightforward, but in a clearer, more accessible method.


A report might speak to your audience’s head, while an infographic can speak to its heart. If readers feel a graphic speaks to them, they might be inspired to share it through social channels. Your communications strategy should ideally strike a balance between this more emotional appeal and the intellectual appeal.


People will be drawn to visualizations because they present data or an argument in a different, more novel way than what they’re accustomed to—in other words, the “wow” factor. On the other hand, the sound, look, and feel of a 100-page report creates a “thunk” factor, an imposing appearance or impressive tactile heft. Which is more appealing for your audience?

Depth of Content

How much information are you actually providing? A good infographic will strike a balance between the dense, detailed information you would provide in a report and memes and pictures, which are easy to understand but convey little to no meaningful data. Ultimately, your infographic will be easier to digest than a lengthy report but more informative than a simple picture.

Keep in mind, an infographic will not always be the right choice to present your data. You wouldn’t use an infographic if you didn’t actually have any concrete or meaningful information to present. It also might not be the right choice if you’re not prepared to tell a visual story—for instance, if you want people to explore the data in detail and come to their own conclusions.

If you’ve decided an infographic is the right medium for your particular message, there are many considerations for creating or commissioning them. To learn more about them and to dig deeper into how to use and create infographics for your organization, download Idealware’s free report, Infographics For Outreach, Advocacy, And Marketing.

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