The Ins and Outs of Infographics for Nonprofits

08 Sep 2016

Three years ago few people knew what they were, but now infographics are everywhere and taking over the digital space. The desire from more and more people to get their news in short spurts (via twitter, listacles and slideshows) created a need to share dense amounts of data in a quick glance. Technically speaking, a pie chart or a pictograph could be considered an infographic, but to successfully engage your viewers, you need to go into the design with a plan: have a hierarchy, tell your story, and provide a relevant call to action.

All data is not created equal.

DISCLAIMER: Like any of the stunts on Mythbusters, I ask you not try this stuff at home without the supervision of a certified designer. (Don’t have one? Give us a call.)

There are a lot of facets to good infographic design, but above all else there needs to be a strong hierarchy. What’s the most important piece of data you’re trying to display? Make it prominent. Sometimes the number itself being the largest element works. Sometimes the sheer number of elements in a pictograph can convey the message. It depends on the nature of your data. As with most design, form should follow function. A half-page killer graphic for an uninspiring statistic is a half page wasted.

Whole Kids Foundation Infographics for nonprofits

This infographic for Whole Kids Foundation tells the story of their reach.

Now, I’d like to introduce you to Nicholas Felton, or Feltron rather. He is the forever reigning king of infographic design, having created an annual report for himself for the past 10+ years. You can see how his design has a consistent hierarchy—you can squint your eyes and see which piece is the most important. The aim is to draw viewers in with large information and engage them enough to read the details.

Picture of Feltron 2007 infographics for nonprofits

Nicholos Felton tracks his life through infographics.

The ASPCA successfully uses infographics to help pet owners prep for disasters. This infographic is solely about pet care in the event of an emergency. It has an introduction to a problem: tons of people have pets but don’t know how to care for them in an emergency; the expanse of the problem: 1 in 3 people don’t know what to do; and the solution: preparation steps. Bellissimo!

Bringing it all home

Now that you have this gawgeous, digestible infographic, you’ll want to pair it with a call to action (CTA). There are two major options—provide helpful tasks for the viewer or make a strong donation/volunteer ask. The former is represented in the ASPCA graphic. That kind of content is a gift to your supporters; it doesn’t directly support your cause financially, but it furthers your mission. Providing consistent, useful (and free) content not only gives supporters a reason to follow you and subscribe to emails, but it will give you more leeway to make direct asks to your supporters later.

Which brings me to the second kind of CTA for an infographic: a hard ask. Because you are in the habit of regularly pushing freebie content to your supporters [elbow nudge], you should pair a direct call to donate or volunteer with an infographic. You’ve shown them what their money can do, now ask for it. Not only are they freshly connected to the impact of their donation visually, but they’re also paying for the helpful tools you provide. It can’t always be an ask, but when it is, make it direct.

And there you have it. Simple, right? Infographics can really bolster a campaign for nonprofits, but it can easily go wrong. Get yourself a good and nerdy designer or team and remember these three tips: have a clear hierarchy, convey your story, and provide a relevant call to action.