Association Analytics and Data Visualization Tools

Big Data and  access to more and better information is vitally important to every business. Data is the driving force behind AI and the massive transformations we see across all types of industries and organizations. This is why analytics and data visualization tools have become so important. With the huge quantity  of information available, organizations need some way to organize, understand, and use it.

How much data are we talking about? According to IBM, over 2.5 million terabytes of data are generated every day. To use an old-school analogy,  one terabyte of data could be:

  • 17,000 hours of music
  • 310,000 photos
  • More than 132,000 650-page novels
  • Almost 86 million full-page Microsoft Word documents

Each of those examples fits into just one terabyte – now multiply one of them by 2.5 million. Let’s use images for our visualization. How many images could be stored with 2.5 million terabytes of data storage? The answer is 775 billion. To help complete the picture, consider this: Facebook currently contains approximately 250 billion images. This means that an amount of data equal to three times the total number of images on Facebook is created every single day.

How much data does your association generate in a day? A month? A year?


It’s easy to see why so many organizations struggle with data. But all the data in the world is useless – in fact it can become a liability – if it cannot be understood and/or used. This is where data visualization and data visualization tools become useful tools.  Data visualization describes the act or process of presenting data in a pictorial or graphical format. When  analytics are presented visually, leaders and decision-makers can more readily grasp ideas, patterns, and problems.

That’s why data visualization tools are so powerful. With these tools, associations can better understand their data, and with interactive visualization, can examine charts and graphs in greater detail, changing how the data is presented and even how it is processed. Data visualization solutions are evolving at a faster pace and now include Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)  presentations in addition to charts, videos, and infographics.


Let’s examine a few data visualization use cases and how some of the best  data visualization tools can help associations make sense of their data.

Operational Processes

Finding efficiency gaps in associations, such as streamlining how tasks get done or developing a new process to make things easier for members, is a snap with data visualization tools. Pulling data from your systems into a single dashboard can help you quickly understand what is happening with tasks and workflows and in order to make needed changes. Analytics can give us raw facts, but when coupled with data visualization, we have the added benefit of shining a light on areas where operational processes fall short.

A second data visualization use case under this heading involves monitoring progress toward one or more goals. Consider using data visualization tools to monitor membership levels and enrollment performance versus quarterly goals. This gives association leaders an instant indication of overall enrollment performance and could lead to specific actions to achieve goals, such as new enrollment campaigns or retention strategies.

Managing Digital Assets

Utilizing association data visualization tools to help understand who your members are, interests they have, and they need will help attract and gain new members. Collate data on existing members, including what makes them stay involved and their differing levels of involvement. What attracts and keeps the majority of your members can also attract new members.

Getting notified when changes occur is important to associations. As new information is added relating to current members, a notification is sent by email to the appropriate leader, who can then determine if a new contact or notification should be made to strengthen association-member relationships.

Aggregating Diverse Data Sets

Yet another of the best data visualization use cases involves advertising or marketing as an example. In order to evaluate marketing channels, including your association website, social media, email marketing, content referrals, and direct traffic, you can aggregate data from the different tools you use and create visual displays. Compare the results from all marketing channels to measure their effectiveness against one another over the same time period.

For example, data visualization tools allow you to collect website page views (Google Analytics), Facebook page views (Facebook), and contacts by source (HubSpot) into a single display that allows a quick look at the overall effectiveness of each channel in the last 30 days. Leaders can then determine is marketing spending should be adjusted, or investigate large spikes in traffic and what initiated them.


Some of the best association data visualization tools available are listed below, with a brief overview of their capabilities.


Forbes magazine calls Tableau “the grand master of data visualization software.” Available in five versions, it is among the most user-friendly of today’s data visualization tools. Even the free Public version offers an incredible variety of options and settings. You can create dozens of different types of visualizations, from scatter plots and heat maps to bubble maps and candlestick charts. Tableau also comes with excellent documentation for ease of use.


Qlikview is another of the major data visualization tools and is Tableau’s biggest competitor. Users tout its highly customizable setup and wide feature range as key benefits. Qlikview offers powerful business intelligence, analytics, and enterprise reporting capabilities with a clutter-free user interface. A strong user community exists and and there are loads of third-party resources available online to help new users.

Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI provides cloud-based BI services, known as “Power BI Services,” along with a desktop-based interface, called “Power BI Desktop.” Its capabilities include  data warehousing and data preparation, data discovery, and interactive dashboards, where end users can create reports and dashboards without depending on IT staff.


Gravitate Solutions provides powerful, pre-built analytics solutions for associations.  Bonus if you are a Higher Logic user since you can connect your community and other data via Activitysync.

What are some association data visualization tools you have used with success? Do you recommend others not on the list above? Why? Share your recommendations and experiences with popular data visualization tools with our readers in the comments below.