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Choosing the Best Visualisation Tool for your NFP

Updated: May 7



Not for profit organisations (NFPs) often operate on tight budgets navigating complex landscapes with limited resources. In their pursuit of driving positive change, NFPs rely heavily on accurate data to inform decision-making, track fundraising efforts, and communicate their impact effectively. Data visualisation tools provide NFPs with the means to transform raw data into actionable insights, empowering them to achieve their missions more effectively. In this blog post, we will explore the journey of The Hunger Project Australia (THPA) as they navigate the world of data visualisation tools to find the perfect fit for their needs.

Overview of Visualisation Tools


With no existing reporting solutions in place, THPA was open to recommendations. However, since they use elements of Microsoft suite already, they had a slight preference towards Microsoft Power BI. We explored three prominent tools for them: Power BI, Tableau, and Looker Studio. Each tool offers unique features and capabilities, catering to different needs and preferences.

1) Power BI


Power BI provides an intuitive interface, making it easy for users to create and customise visuals according to their requirements. For THPA, who have some familiarity with the Microsoft Suite, Power BI's seamless integration offers a compelling advantage. Additionally, Power BI offers affordable pricing options for NFPs, making it an attractive choice for NFPs operating on tight budgets. Furthermore, its dedicated connector for Raiser's Edge (Blackbaud) simplifies data integration, ensuring seamless access to critical fundraising data. Lastly, productionalization of the visualisation is easy through an on-premise data gateway which allows easy integration of multiple data sources.


Power BI does have its limitations – the free version of Power BI Desktop lacks robust collaboration features, potentially leading to versioning issues and miscommunications within the organisation. Moreover, complex data transformations may pose challenges for users, requiring a certain level of technical expertise to navigate effectively. Additionally, Power BI Desktop's availability only on Windows platforms limits accessibility for Mac users, potentially hindering collaboration across different operating systems.


While Power BI Desktop is free, we recommend Power BI Pro which is priced at $3 per user per month for NFPs.

2) Tableau


Tableau offers a user-friendly interface, making it accessible to users with varying levels of technical expertise. For THPA, Tableau's flexibility and versatility present an intriguing proposition. The option for a low-cost subscription for NFPs further enhances its appeal, allowing organisations to access powerful data visualisation capabilities without breaking the bank. Moreover, Tableau's potential for dynamic data viewing from Raiser's Edge provides THPA with valuable insights into their fundraising activities.


However, Tableau is not without its limitations. Performance issues may arise, particularly when dealing with complex data models, potentially impacting the user experience. Privacy concerns also emerge with Tableau, as data stored locally on end-users' desktops may compromise data security. Additionally, the need for additional connectors, such as the Raiser's Edge NXT Tableau Connector, may incur additional costs, further stretching the organisation's budget.


One off 2 year subscription of $74 to $117 NFP offering for Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder. Additionally, Tableau Viewer for the end user to interact with the dashboard is $15 per user per month. 

3) Looker Studio


Looker Studio offers a straightforward setup process, requiring only a Google account to get started. Its accessibility and ease of use make it an appealing option for non-technical users within THPA. Furthermore, Looker Studio's collaborative features facilitate teamwork, allowing multiple users to co-develop dashboards and reduce reliance on specialists for routine tasks.


However, Looker Studio has its limitations. While it excels in basic dashboard creation and sharing, its visualisation capabilities may not match those of Power BI and Tableau. Custom metrics setup can be finicky, particularly without access to Looker, which may hinder THPA’s ability to create detailed and insightful dashboards. Moreover, the absence of a connector for Raiser's Edge necessitates a workaround involving data export to Google Sheets, limiting real-time reporting capabilities.


Looker Studio is free for both creators and viewers. Do note that this is not the same as Looker.

Choosing the best fit for THPA



THPA’s primary requirement was to build a revenue dashboard that offers visibility to their Senior Leadership Team on how the organisation is tracking. The dashboard's primary objective is to track revenue trends over time, with a keen focus on campaigns and pledges/fundraising activities. For THPA, these metrics serve as vital indicators of their longevity and impact. Additionally, the aim of the dashboard will be to empower every team member at THPA with accurate data at their fingertips. Moreover, a simplified version of the dashboard will be shared with their board, providing a snapshot of the organisation's performance.


After careful consideration of the advantages and limitations of each visualisation tool, Power BI emerged as the recommended choice for THPA. Its intuitive interface, affordability, and seamless integration with Raiser's Edge align well with THPA’s  requirements and preferences. By harnessing the power of Power BI, THPA can empower their team with accurate and actionable insights, driving greater impact and sustainability.

Key Takeaway


In conclusion, the journey of selecting the right visualisation tool for NFPs is not without its challenges. However, by understanding their requirements and carefully evaluating the features and limitations of each tool, organisations can make informed decisions that align with their mission and objectives. Whether it's Power BI, Tableau, or Looker Studio, the key is to choose a tool that not only meets immediate needs but also provides scalability and flexibility for future growth. With the right visualisation tool at their disposal, NFPs can embark on a transformative journey towards greater impact and success.

By Mohammed S Nabeel (GDI Volunteer)

About GDI:

The Good Data Institute (established 2019) is a registered not-for-profit organisation (ABN: 6664087941) that aims to give not-for-profits access to data analytics (D&A) support & tools. Our mission is to be the bridge between the not-for-profit world and the world of data analytics practitioners wishing to do social good.  Using D&A, we identify, share, and help implement the most effective means for growing NFP people, organisations, and their impact.

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