What Is Impact? An Overview From Social Impact Solutions
As Giving Tuesday approaches, every nonprofit will be competing for donations with approximately 10 million others worldwide. What makes yours stand out? How do you convince current and potential donors to make your organization the object of their Giving Tuesday contribution? It’s not complicated. Donors simply want to know their money will actually make a positive impact in this world. Whether your nonprofit provides food and water to impoverished communities, researches cures for diseases, or protects our planet, you need to prove your worth. In today’s information-saturated world, donors want a combination of hard and soft data – numbers and stories – so they can make the “right” choice. Let’s unpack the steps for making that happen, starting with a clear understanding of impact.
What is Impact?
There are many misconceptions around impact, but take the time to ask what is impact. Impact is the main reason donors give. It’s’ the positive change your organization makes in an attempt to fix some part of this broken world. What that looks like is different for each nonprofit, but quantifiable just the same. Think of it as a broad measurement of the direct and indirect effect of your organization’s programs and initiatives. This is different from outcomes, which are the immediate results of an action.
“Impact shows why it’s important that your organization exists and why you do what you do,” said Sarah Stritch, marketing manager for iATS Payments. In “This Giving Tuesday Help Donors Understand Your Impact,” a webinar hosted by iATS Payments and Social Impact Solutions, Stritch explained that each person working or volunteering for a nonprofit has a role to play, and “it’s important that everyone in your organization understand the impact your community is getting from your services.” Once that’s accomplished, they can clearly and confidently share that information with donors and potential donors.
For a more comprehensive explanation of impact and all its components, read “What Is Impact? Understanding, Measuring, & Amplifying Social Change”
The Official Definition of Impact
In the nonprofit world, “impact” is becoming a household word. Donors don’t just desire impact data, they demand it. “They genuinely want to know what changes are taking place” said Lauren Vanderpool, cofounder of Social Impact Solutions. She explained that younger generations, in particular, want to see social change proven through impact metrics.
“Impact is really just measuring change over time,” Vanderpool said. “So measuring that change, recording that transformation, and then reporting that information back to your donors and other stakeholders is truly invaluable.”
Vanderpool backs her statement with research highlighting the value of impact metrics and reports:
- 97% of major donors look at impact as the number one reason they give to an organization.
- 66% look at positive outcomes.
- 93% of 200 foundations and corporate giving programs surveyed by Social Solutions reported that they required grantees to provide impact reports.
In short, impact data builds trust, and trust enables your nonprofit to drive more value for your cause and revenue for your organization.
How and Why to Measure Your Impact
Pillar components to help measure impact begin with your programs or initiatives – the flagstones of why you exist. From there, you’ll want to quantify outputs – the short-term results from your programs. For example: how many people served, meals provided, wells drilled, trees planted, etc.? Many nonprofits stop with this, and therein lies the problem. Donors want to know more. Nonprofits can discover how measuring and communicating social impact transforms funding, constituents, and marketing efforts by downloading “8 Reasons You Should Measure Social Impact.”
Here are examples of impact concepts. “Outputs are valuable, but definitely take it to the next step when you’re measuring your impact and focus on outcomes as well,” Vanderpool said. “These are the mid-term and long-term results where you’re seeing change over time.”
You’ve Got the Info, Now What?
Shout it from the mountaintops … metaphorically speaking. Impact without marketing sabotages your good work. It prevents donors from getting the very thing that compels them to donate: results. Make sure your stakeholders understand the true value you are providing to the community you serve. And this is key: Assure them these life changing impacts are only possible with their donations. Strategies for accomplishing this include:
- Communicating your impact data: This can be done verbally, in a phone call, or in written form, through email, mailings, or on your website. Detail the number of people served,specific issues resolved, etc.
- Sharing stories: Donors and stakeholders love to hear stories of transformation because they add a personal touch. Stories put heart into numbers and a face to an issue. Tell the story of one person or family, with a photo if possible, and watch the magic happen.
- Highlighting data on your website: What better place to showcase your information? Present data creatively with a flow chart, infographics, or proportioned images.
- Generating an annual impact report: Include impact metrics, stories, and photos to highlight what your organization has done. Donors also like to see short and long-term goals. This valuable document can easily be updated every year and can live on your website for new donors to access. Create a lead-generating pdf that can be downloaded and used to capture email addresses.
Impact and Giving Tuesday
On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28, people worldwide will choose to support a cause that resonates with them. Money will flow in for a plethora of local, national, and global causes. If you want some of that to flow your way, keep your message simple. Focus on one initiative per page so as not to confuse your donors. Clearly define your outputs, using whatever impact data you have. Donors primarily want to know two things when choosing their Giving Tuesday donation recipient: accomplishments and goals.
Your call to action should be just as simple. Have one call to action on your donation form and make it easy for donors to understand and give. Example: “Donate today to feed children in Haiti.” Or, “Your $50 donation will provide 100 meals to children in Haiti.” Don’t convolute the message by asking them to follow you on social media, send an email, or read a blog. Simple wins.
We’re Here to Help
We hope you’ll use these simple strategies for Giving Tuesday, end-of-year fundraisers, and throughout the year to grow your nonprofit. If you need help with fundraising initiatives, take the Social Impact Solutions free Fundraising Quiz for a quick assessment of marketing, organizational clarity, fundraising and impact. In minutes, you’ll receive an evaluation of your organization’s strengths, as well as areas you may want to improve. And if you are a business and want to explore ways to boost your company’s impact or CSR initiative, schedule a call with our team.