Reporting for Grantmakers: Charts vs. Lists to Make Sense of Your Data

Gathering data in a digital world is the easy part of grant management. You have data on your grantees flowing into your grant management system (GMS) through applications and their updates. Newsletters with industry trends hit your inbox almost every day. Your own historical data on grants awarded accumulates with every grant cycle.

The difficult part is putting all the data points together in a way that you can make decisions based on that information. Your grants management system has a variety of ways to visualize the information, but what is the best format for the insight you are looking for?

Charts and lists are two of the most common formats for grant reporting, but they have different benefits when you are trying to make sense of your grantmaking data.

Using Lists in Your Grant Reporting

From monthly budgets to a roster of event attendees, it’s wonderful to be able to see your data organized clearly in neat rows. The basic, list-format report has a lot of benefits when you are trying to get a handle on your data, especially when you want to see granular data about individual items.

When you are looking at the grants your organization made in a given year or what application reviews pending, you can easily sort your list to get your answer. Lists enable you to see a lot of granular data at once so you can find a specific piece of information quickly.

While lists are great for helping you identify a specific piece of information, such as a total of grant dollars awarded year to date, it can be difficult to visualize your information or clearly see a comparison of several data sets.

Using Charts in Your Grant Reporting

When you have two or more metrics, such as grants given to different impact areas over time, you can pull that information into a bar chart and see in an instant that your organization, for example, gave more to food insecurity programs than early childhood literacy programs over the past two years. Charts make it easy to make sense of a lot of data by creating context.

With charts, such as pie and line graphs, you can quickly make sense of a large data set. Looking at numbers over time makes it easy to identify historical trends, such as increases in applications from new nonprofits. Charts can help you make decisions faster, without setting up a string of complicated formulas.

Charts are excellent for understanding large data sets but often aggregate the information. That makes it difficult to find detailed information, such as when you last awarded a grant to a specific organization. Charts also are not good for helping you create specific tasks, such as which applicants need follow-up correspondence. That’s where a list format would be more valuable.

Check out our full infographic on Communicating Grantmaking Data

Reports Should Save You Time, Not Waste It

With the right grant reporting tools and data visualization options, you can get the information you need quickly so your time can be better spent on the tasks that drive impact for your organization.

  • The Formatting Time Warp: When you start adjusting the color schemes and font options for your report and suddenly an hour disappears
  • The Old Report Treasure Hunt: When you were sure you saved that one report from last year, but you don’t remember what you called it
  • The “What is This Report Telling Me?” Guessing Game: When unclear labels or incorrect chart types leave you looking for meaning in a jumble of numbers

Making Grant Reporting Simple with Your Grants Management Software

Whether you are using lists or charts, you want your data to be available anytime and anywhere so you can make decisions quickly. With purpose-built dashboards in your grants management system, you can set up reports that show you at a glance where approvals stand and what trends you should be watching.

Learn more about how dashboards can save you time with our whitepaper, 3 Ways Dashboards Help Grantmakers Make Sense of Their Data.