Data does not have to be dull

Wednesday, 4 February 2015 - 12:05am

A rough guide to using data to get your message across

Infographic of mental health issues among people who have been homeless

Data, when presented in a graphical form, can provide a powerful tool for getting your message across.

This can be as unsophisticated as a pie chart or as complex as a heat map but whether you are fundraising or pitching to commissioners, visually representing information can help you make an impact.

Why get visual?

Giving people a huge list of numbers can be both overwhelming and indigestible. You might may be familiar your with service data or key statistics about homelessness but your audience may not.

Translating the data into a visual format makes your job of communicating your impact easier. There is also the added benefit that presenting data this way can also help uncover patterns that you may not have previously noticed.

Data visualisation can also make a real impact when used in presentations or in digital communications. 

What data to use?

Any data that is up to date, accurate and robust can be used. However, there are some things to consider:

  • Where has the information come from? Sources of data still need to be referenced to give accurate information. This is especially important if you are using statistics that have come from more than one source or a third party.
  • Is it comparable? Yes, if two sources of information are being used that were collected in a similar timeframe or in the same survey or research study.
  • Is the data accurate and robust? Presenting accurate data is still important even in pictorial format.

Numerical or quantitative data is not the only type of information that can be presented visually, for example a client’s journey could be shown using pictures or a flow chart.

What are you trying to say?

Different ways of presenting information may show slightly different things or tell a different story.

It may also be useful to show:

  • Trends over time, for example in showing how outcomes have improved since your service has been running or you introduced a new way of working.
  • Geography can also play its part, for example heat maps can show how figures vary across local authority areas.
  • Client case studies or testimonies represented in a visual format to make your communications more powerful.

Getting started

There are a number of free tools that are available to present data in a visual format. Here are just four of our favourites:

  1. Pictochart provides templates to create your own infographics
  2. Tableau Public is an interactive tool that allows you to publish information on the web. Once the data has been published anyone can interact with the data, download it, or create their own visualisations of it.
  3. Data wrapper creates charts for the web
  4. Google fusion tables is an online data and mapping tool which provides means for visualising data with pie charts, bar charts, lineplots, scatterplots, timelines, and geographical maps.

Data analysis and visualisation guides

These guides cover data analysis and visualisation, as well as guidance on using financial savings analysis in the homelessness sector


Talk To Us

Rachel Hurcombe

Rachel Hurcombe

Research officer

Rachel was our research officer.

Telephone: 020 7840 4418

Struggling to make sense of your data?

Our team can help you to understand and communicate how your work is making a difference.