An Infographic Is Worth Many Thousands of Words: Voices Campaign Wins Plaudits & Platform

Harvey Chipkin
March 23, 2012

“We look at infographics as a new way for us to tell a story. It’s a visual that makes it easy to understand what otherwise might be seen as complicated.”

Bill Bentley, president and CEO of Voices for America’s Children, says the organization has been thinking of using infographics for a while, but the time seemed right when the Congressional Super Committee was formed last year to look at the federal budget.

The infographics produced by Voices as part of an “America’s Kids, America’s Future” budget campaign were not only widely disseminated among other child advocacy groups, but seem to herald a new era for this kind of storytelling.

“When we realized that a lot of the Super Committee conversation was about cutting domestic programs,” says Bentley, “our concern was to get the message out about what the adverse impact would be on kids and families. We knew we had to do this in a simple but compelling way.”

According to Bentley, “Our communications team, Roberta Heine and Casey Labrack, has a wealth of experience in this and worked with Fission Strategy, a social media firm that specialized in social causes, to develop the infographics campaign.

“We pushed it out to our state executives around the country – we are in 46 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands – and they pushed it out to other networks. We also pushed it out to policymakers and other advocacy organizations. We’re involved with the Children’s Leadership Council and some of them pushed it out to their constituencies.

“We got great feedback and were told by many that they were going to use it themselves. And we encouraged them to use it – to get the message out as much as possible.”

Among those praising Voices’ infographicsas a model for other nonprofits were Social Brite and Community Organizer 2.0.

Bentley said he agrees with Beth Kanter, an expert on how nonprofits can use social media, who recently wrote, “I think that information visualization is a necessity in this age of data overload and seeing the forest beyond the trees.” Debra Askanase wrote in a Community Organizer 2.0 “Infographics for Nonprofits: The New Storytelling” post, “I agree with this statement and personally jump to view the ‘shiny new storytelling toy’ whenever I see an infographic. Infographics represent an exciting new storytelling avenue for nonprofit organizations, enabling them to share important data stories visually.”

Karen Dietz, who uses storytelling to help businesses grow and says that “Infographics are another form of visual storytelling, and many of the same oral storytelling principles apply. We’ll be sorting out the issues of authenticity and key messaging and quality as infographics become more popular and easier to produce.”

While it’s difficult to gauge exactly how influential the Voices infographics campaign was, Bentley says that “More than 12,000 messages were sent to members of Congress directly from their constituents after we started this campaign that can be traced directly to our initiative. That doesn’t include the further dissemination by those we pushed it out to, so the numbers are likely to be much higher.”

And what about any impact on Congress? While difficult to discern, Bentley does say, “We believe this has had an impact. Our infographics have gotten to members of Congress, sometimes directly from us, sometimes from our partner organizations. We know that our partners at FRAC (Food Research and Action Center), SparkAction, MomsRising, Center for American Progress and many others liked the concept and are using in ways they feel appropriate.”

“Importantly, a number of our funders saw the infographics,” says Bentley, “and we received unsolicited responses from them. We’re on to something here. Those who saw an infographic ‘got it’ and they understood it the way we wanted them to. There are people out there who don’t really think that telling stories matters. They are wrong. We know they’re wrong.”

Voices will continue to use infographics because of the success of this campaign – which only began with its direct impact. “We also discovered,” says Bentley, “that we significantly increased hits on our websiteand ‘likes’ on Facebook.”

In the future, says Bentley, “We will decide which sets of data will allow us to convert them into an infographic. This now becomes another vehicle or tool that complements our strategy.”

 


This article was originally published by Child Advocacy 360. It is reprinted here with permission.


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