Kony 2012: How to weaken your argument with charts

March 12, 2012

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

If the goal of the Invisible Children campaign, which has received millions of dollars of contributions since the Kony 2012 video went viral, is to convince us that the money is being put to humanitarian efforts, they could do a lot better than this chart


Putting 37% of expenses into programs in Africa is a decent result — many charities have much higher overheads. But with its weirdly varying-width segments the chart above isn't telling a clear story. The "Awareness Programs" segment (26% of expenses) is, by my eye, less than half the area of "Central Africa Programs". "Management and General", at just over 16%, looks about the same area as the taller, yet narrower, "Awareness Products" segment (9.56%). I'm sure it's just the work of an overzealous graphical designer, but when you're trying to tell a story with data, shenanigans like this just makes it seem like you have something to hide.

By the way, here's a simpler version of the chart (created with the R language) that makes it easier to compare the relative contributions of the expense categories.

kony <- c(Africa=37.14, "Awareness Programs"=25.98, Management=16.24, 
  "Awareness Products"=9.56, "Media Creation"=7.87,Fundraising=3.22)
barplot(kony,ylab="Percent of expenses")


Invisible Children: Critiques

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