Structure and Visualize Financial Open Data for Effective Use

Data-Visualization.jpgVisuals—charts, graphs, infographics, etc.—help people better comprehend data, interpret information faster, and identify problems and solutions.

When it comes to grant spending, data visualizations provide nonprofits and local governments better insight into their own budgets. When published publicly, they also into where taxpayer money is spent, helping to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. 

Find tips for data visualization and why it’s so important to grant management below.

Data Visualization Use Cases

When presented visually, data patterns identify themselves. Line charts and graphs show trends and outliers better than one-off data points. Therefore, by presenting grant and budget data visually, local governments and organizations can improve efficiencies and results. A few example visualization tools include:

  • Chattanooga’s Budget Tree: This data visualization allows Chattanooga citizens to review spending priorities, funding sources and a five-year budget plan. This gives taxpayers insight into where their money going. Video tutorials teach citizens how to use the portal and make the most of its capabilities.
  • City of Chicago: The City of Chicago uses data visualization to provide its citizens with an inside look at the budget and planned spending. Hover-over features and search functionality make it easy to find funding details. 
  • Opengov.com: This larger scale data visualization shows U.S. federal budget and spending habits over one fiscal year. Filters and views let you segment the data to meet your needs and to answer frequently asked questions.

How To Structure Your Data

Remember—not all digitally accessible files are machine-readable. Your ability to download a PDF online doesn’t mean that a computer understands what’s on the page. To be machine-readable, a computer must be able to interpret the file’s data on its own. 

Easily transform your financial data into a machine-readable format with grant management software. Some providers even integrate with data visualization technologies, like , to transform large amounts of data into visuals—fast.

How to Structure Your Visual 

To make your visualization appealing, follow these best practices and recommendations from the World Bank’s DATABlog:

  • Start with a powerful title or headline. People focus first on the text while their brains absorb the visual.
  • Use recognizable symbols and icons. For example, use an apple to represent food or water to represent the ocean. These images help people interpret and remember the visual. The simplest visuals are the most powerful.
  • Redundancy is key. Repetition of data makes it easier to recall and understand. 

For more information on how to utilize open data at your nonprofit or government agency, download a copy of our open data ebook.

The Path to Open Data

Image Source: Sebastian Sikora