2016-03-15 data

Data and Technology Tools and Tips

Several sessions at GMN2016 covered the hot topics of technology and data—what grants managers are doing and how to we can do it better.

Ann K. Emery presented strategies on effective data visualization. She challenged participants to think visually and create graphics that save time and foster understanding for viewers. Ann encouraged the audience to think carefully about the message for the intended audience, the story you want to tell, and the appropriate format (for example, a series of dashboards for an internal audience or an infographic for a one-time presentation of data to an external audience).

Sketching your data by hand can help you select the type of chart that works best. You might want to use spark lines to show a trend, or shaded data bars to represent individual data points for easier comparison. Excel is a powerful tool to create many types of data visualizations, and she also recommended checking out the YouTube channel for Tableau.

Ann stressed that using the two-pronged technique of simplification—removing unnecessary borders, gridlines, and effects—and emphasis—using a descriptive title, concise labeling, and colors based on organizational branding—would allow you, and the audience, to focus on the message you want to convey.

What are some other tech topics affecting grants managers? Ursula Stewart outlined four broad areas –

  • technical knowledge – the tech landscape, systems, programming, security, and communication;
  • project management – organizational intelligence, assessment, timelines, cost and value benefit analysis, product delivery, and tackling the day-to-day vs. the big picture;
  • technology management – upgrades and maintenance, disaster recovery, contracts, budgets, and IT strategy; and
  • business analytics – supporting human decisions, gaining insight from historical data, using data to assess the future, and envisioning change.

John Mohr spoke to the trends revealed in the 2014 Grantmakers Information Technology Survey Report, a collaboration between TAG and GMN, and the more recent “What Do You Use Survey” conducted by TAG. Some of the findings: Sixty-eight percent of foundations use an online system for grant applications. More foundations are using software to create board books (68% in 2014). Social media tools are not that popular among foundation staff, and seventy-four percent of foundations use some cloud applications.

The resources listed below provide more details about these topics:

Carolyn Sosnowski

Carolyn J. Sosnowski, MLIS, is content manager for GMN. Follow her on Twitter @TheRealCarolynS.