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Innovation

How Tableau Foundation’s ‘Living’ Annual Report Drives Organizational Accountability

Tableau Foundation Overview

A lot has changed since we launched the Tableau Foundation in 2015 — including how we approach giving. This past year, for instance, the Tableau Foundation restructured its grantmaking to align to the core areas in which we hope to make an impact: racial and gender equity, global health, hunger, homelessness, and climate action. As our grantmaking strategy has evolved, however, our commitment to transparency has remained the same: core to our ethos. 

The way we maintain this transparency is with our Living Annual Report, or LAR. Here at the Tableau Foundation, we view the LAR as a more dynamic, transparent alternative to the typical annual report — the one you might download once a year as a PDF from a typical foundation’s website. 

Built in Tableau, the LAR is an interactive dashboard, refreshed weekly with new data on our grantmaking and partnerships. Within the LAR, you can see a summary of the organizations we’ve partnered with, the countries in which we work, and our total giving to date. This tool enables us to track our grantmaking in real time, and consistently communicate our work out to the public.

Tableau Foundation Data

An increased need for transparent reporting

Transparency has taken on a new urgency this year. Increasingly, businesses and foundations are being called upon to step up and contribute to the effort against the most entrenched problems in our world — from the COVID-19 pandemic to systemic racism in the U.S.

We have always believed that the data we use internally for our own work should be the same data we share with our stakeholders. Our LAR is an internal tool for planning purposes, and an external tool for reporting. 

As the need for accountability for social impact increases, a dynamic tool like the LAR can help organizations take a proactive approach to communicating efforts and commitments. 

And, while most data that you see in static annual reports has been scrubbed and repackaged, our LAR offers a more transparent view — not only into our current grantmaking, but into our trajectory as an organization. 

A dynamic tool for discovery

In completing the first redesign of the LAR since 2019, we took the opportunity to add more nuance and depth to the platform. While the dashboards primarily display the topline data on our partnerships — the different grants we’ve made to organizations — we’ve added links to the Tableau Foundation website so viewers can explore our grantmaking philosophy more in-depth. 

While our underlying data has remained the same, we were able to adjust the presentation of our data to highlight our new grantmaking priorities. This enables an up-to-the-minute view into even our newest commitments. For example, even though our focus on racial justice work in the U.S. is new and still expanding, stakeholders can already explore our investments in this space, and our partnerships with organizations like PolicyLink and Urban Institute. 

Sharing the approach with others

It’s also important to us that the LAR be something that others can adapt for their own purposes.  The core of the LAR is no more complicated than a set of frequently updated Tableau dashboards. This is something that any organization using Tableau, large or small, can build. 

Because the LAR is a digital piece, no one is left with out-of-date information or old design.

This digital-first approach also makes a responsive feedback loop possible. Since launch, we’ve been able to dramatically improve end-user experience by quickly incorporating feedback from stakeholders. Also, when Tableau releases new features (such as the navigation buttons throughout the LAR), we’re able to incorporate those product features into the LAR immediately.

A different view into the data

A digital reporting platform means not being confined to one presentation of the data. In the LAR, we’re able to present our grantmaking history through several lenses:

  • Under “Our Focus Areas,” stakeholders can find deeper-dive data on each of our six key areas of focus, as well as language about the philosophy behind our commitments and links out to the Tableau Foundation website to learn more.
  • “Where we Work” shows our impact geographically — both across the world and at the state level in the U.S. This type of view is essential for describing the scope and breadth of global impact.
  • “Explore our Grants” shows all of our grantmaking over time, organized by year, which nods to how our work and our partnerships have evolved.
  • Under “Supporting the SDGs,” stakeholders can explore a dashboard that maps our grants to the 17 areas of impact outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As organizations including Tableau and Salesforce have committed to aligning with the SDGs, the ability to present our data through this framework creates accountability to these goals.