The human brain is quick to recognize patterns and divergences among simple shapes. A good chart paints complex data into works of art. Identify which chart type to use based on the data you are illustrating. 


Bar and column charts are everywhere. They’re easily the most common type of chart, and for good reason: they provide a straightforward and intuitive way to compare quantitative data across categories. Variations of bar charts include thermometer charts, stacked charts, heatmaps, and pie charts. 


Sometimes, a bar chart is not the right choice. When painting a picture of patterns, trends, and change, another option might be better, such as a line chart or flow chart. 


Bar Charts and Column Charts 

  • Compare quantitative data across categories 
  • Effective for showcasing magnitude differences 
  • Simple and powerful for communication 


  • Bar Charts in Disguise: Thermometer, Stacked, Heatmap, and Pie 

    • Thermometer charts for explicit comparisons 
    • Stacked charts for showing proportions 
    • Maps for geographical comparisons 
    • Pie charts for simple magnitude comparisons 


Line Charts 

  • Emphasize trends and patterns over time 
  • Useful for showing change and growth 
  • Focus on the overall trajectory  


Sankey Diagrams 

  • Effective for displaying flow of funds 
  • Useful for presenting budgets or financial flows 
  • Provides a detailed breakdown of revenue sources and expense uses 


Choose the chart that paints the narrative your data deserves. 


YPTC is here to help! YPTC is here to help you focus on the picture of your nonprofit. For more information about this topic, click here to watch the webinar or here to contact YPTC for assistance.