Storytelling with data for grants managers

There is a story in your data.

…but do you know how to tell it? Communicating effectively with data is not an inherent skill and isn’t often taught, yet it is a critical skill for grants managers when it comes to building understanding, provoking conversation, and driving action.

My name is Cole and I tell stories with data. I teach others how to do it, too. Over the past few years, I’ve taught workshops for organizations like Adobe, the Gates Foundation, local GMN chapters, the World Bank, and Google. I teach lessons that help individuals more effectively communicate with data. The lessons—for example, understand the context, choose an appropriate visual, identify and eliminate clutter, draw attention where you want it, and tell a story—combine data visualization and storytelling best practices for maximum impact in communicating with data.

I’m thrilled to be able to bring these important lessons to a wider audience through my newly released book, storytelling with data. In this post, I’ll highlight a brief example from the book to help demonstrate the power of effectively visualizing data.

Consider the following graph.


Knaflic, Cole. Storytelling With Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals, Wiley, © 2015.

This isn’t a horrible graph. Elements are aligned nicely and everything is well-labeled. But it could be more effective.

Let’s assume, for example, that we want to use this data to set up a conversation about the decrease in support for Education non-profits over time. Here’s how we might modify the preceding visual to achieve that focus:


Knaflic, Cole. Storytelling With Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals, Wiley, © 2015.

In this iteration, everything has been pushed to the background, except the Education trend, which is clearly emphasized via thickness of lines, data marker, color, and text. Whereas in the original version, there was a lot competing for our attention, in the makeover, it is very clear where we are meant to look. The addition of text also directs our attention; this particular example has been generalized, but text can be used to lend context and frame up the discussion or decision we want to drive.

For much more on communicating effectively with data, including many tips and examples, check out my new book, storytelling with data: a data visualization guide for business professionals and follow my blog,



Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic tells stories with data. She is the author of Storytelling With Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals and writes the popular blog Her well-regarded workshops and presentations are highly sought after by data-minded individuals, companies, and philanthropic organizations all over the world. Follow her on Twitter @storywithdata.

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  1. […] “Storytelling with Data for Grants Managers,” GMN Blog, November 2, 2015. […]

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