Inspire Donors with Data-Driven Storytelling
People love stories. In fact, written stories in the form of cave drawings date back 30,000 years! This passion covers all cultures and all types of stories. If you’re looking to grow your nonprofit, give donors what they love! This blog consolidates our recent collaboration with Bloomerang talking about data storytelling.
If you want to watch the full webinar and get the slides, click here.
What Is Data Storytelling?
Data storytelling is an essential tool for nonprofits seeking to drive social impact. It’s not just about presenting numbers; it’s about weaving those numbers into a narrative that resonates with your audience—be it donors, volunteers, or the communities you serve. At Social Impact Solutions, we believe in harnessing the power of your data to tell compelling stories that highlight your achievements, needs, and the tangible change you’re fostering. By strategically combining data with relatable stories, we help you illustrate the importance of your work, making it more accessible and engaging. This approach not only informs but also inspires action, fostering a deeper connection between your mission and those you aim to motivate. Whether you’re reporting to stakeholders or reaching out to new supporters, effective data storytelling elevates your message, ensuring your nonprofit’s vision is not only seen but truly understood and acted upon.
Why Data Storytelling Is So Important
Data-storytelling is an enchanting combination of numbers, stories, and infographics that give statistics a heart. Whether your organization is trying to cure cancer, feed the hungry, or save the planet, it will benefit from this time-tested strategy. Today’s donors demand to see social impact data: how your organization has changed lives. They want to know what you did to make that happen and the plan for doing more of it. Numbers are a great foundation, but they can’t do the job alone because they are impersonal. Boring. Lifeless. Combine numbers with stories, and now you’ve got something intriguing. Something that:
- Captures interest.
- Makes donors care.
- Inspires them to give.
- Motivates them to tell others.
Read on for a deeper look at leveraging data-driven narratives to secure larger donations and drive your mission forward.
Let’s Begin with the End: Building Trust
Why do donors need to trust you? About four years ago, a paradigm shift took place in which donors wanted two things: impact data and stories of transformation. According to John Mark Vanderpool, cofounder of Social Impact Solutions, the latter is a game changer for nonprofits. “We’ve seen nonprofits go from tiny little start-ups to hundreds of millions of dollars a year just through effective storytelling. But the biggest difference today is how donors are hungry for impact data.”
Before an organization can tell stories of change, it needs to have impact data and metrics to back that story. Let’s unpack those terms.
What Good Have You Done?
Impact Data: the change your organization creates as a result of programs and initiatives. Impact data illustrates the social good resulting from your programs. It is the measurable change or effect that an action or initiative has on a particular group, community or environment. At its core, impact is:
- The reason you exist
- What you are really selling
- The inspiration for donors to align with your mission.
In fact, impact data is the number one reason they give. People, particularly millennials and Gen Z, want to fund impact. They see themselves as agents of change but need partners who can make it happen. Your nonprofit is that partner. You can come alongside them and say “look at the difference you can make when we work together!” But saying it isn’t enough. They are all about quantifying social change, and that’s where impact data enters the scene. Aligning your messaging, marketing, and fundraising with your donor preferences (the desire for data), can create a disproportionate return for your organization.
The Short and Long of It
Impact Metrics: The measurements that track progress toward long and short-term objectives. Metrics show how many tangible items or services were provided and what percentage of change they created. For example, if an organization gives away 250,000 meals every year to undernourished children, that’s their output metric. Outputs are important, but they’re not impact. Donors want to know the short and long-term consequences of your program. What difference did those meals make? The answer is your impact. For example, if the children served had all gained weight six months later, that would indicate the program made a difference. Now you have short-term metrics. If three years later those same kids are showing a 20% decrease in malnutrition, that’s your long-term impact metrics. Keep measuring as time goes on. How did this weight gain affect health, school, jobs, etc.?
Tell Me a Story
All of the information above tells a story, through numbers, your donors want to hear. It answers their key questions:
- What’s the data?
- How do I know I can trust you with more money?
- What are you going to do with it long term?
Now, let’s take those numbers to the next level by adding them to a narrative.
Storytelling: A narrative that captures the imagination of your audience, inspires them with your vision, and calls them to action. Telling effective stories is a hallmark of successful nonprofits, but there’s a framework behind successful storytelling that includes these strategies:
- Understand your audience. It’s not effective to tell the same story in the same way to every audience. Tailor your messages in different ways for donors, volunteers, staff, and board members.
- Create a clear and concise message.
- Demonstrate what your organization stands for and against. People need to understand the reason your organization exists. If it didn’t, what would life would be like for those you serve?
- Cast a vision of the future your organization aims to create.
- Call your donors to action. Not all calls are “give now.” They can be “ join the board” or “become a volunteer.” But if you’re focusing on fundraising, stick with “give now” and have buttons all over your website so they can easily make a donation.
Use Benefits of Storybrand
Storybrand is a methodology that centers your constituents as the main characters, or heroes, of your nonprofit’s story. Through this framework, donors gain a greater understanding of your organization’s mission and their important role in making it successful.
Every story has three things: a problem, a plan, and a solution. Don’t focus on plural problems, which dilutes your mission and message. Focus, instead, on the one reason your nonprofit exists. Organizations that focus on one problem when fundraising experience faster and larger growth.
Using Storybrand, explain the problem and resolution to your donors. If, for example, the problem is child malnutrition, let them know how many kids are malnourished and how that’s affecting their lives. Tell them if they “give today,” your organization will partner with local schools to provide meals to kids. Donations will fund those meals. Now move on to the solution phase: kids will have food, malnutrition will decrease, health will improve, children will be able to focus in class, etc. Do this in partnership with your funders so they see where they fit into the story as it unfolds.
If your donors don’t seem fired up about your mission, consider whether you’re accentuating the positive results. Donors don’t want messaging constantly filled with gloom aimed at guilting them into donating. While they do need to know the problem, it’s equally important for them to see how their gifts are making a positive social impact.
Measure, Market, Report
There has never been a better time to measure and market impact. Donors and granting organizations want to see quantified results, even if they aren’t great. They just want to see that you’re measuring, and tend to reward such measurements with dollars. If you’re concerned about how to accomplish this, consider great platforms like Bloomerang that exist to make it easier to gather and share this info.
Once you’ve got outputs, outcomes, data, and metrics, combine this information to create an impact report. This document will demonstrate what your organization has done through transformative stories, easy-to-understand infographics, and genuine gratitude. It will allow you to:
- Make data-driven decisions.
- Land larger grants.
- Clearly communicate your true value.
- Retain and increase your donor base.
- Incorporate needed change to your programs.
- Align your internal teams.
- Grow your organization.
Your impact report will not only illustrate what you’ve done because of your donors, but also present an inspiring vision for the future. They will clearly see how their donations transform lives. Be sure to lay out a path for donors to follow and clear calls to action: Give today, support our program, be a changemaker, etc.
We Can Help
It’s a lot, we know. The thought of amassing this information can feel overwhelming, which is why Social Impact Solutions has put together different tools, courses, surveys, and free stuff so you can become a data and impact driven organization. You want to grow your organization so it can keep making a positive impact in this broken world. To do that, it’s imperative for you to know your value, own the data, and become dedicated to measuring and recording vital information.
How well are you doing this? Find out with the Social Impact Solutions free Fundraising Quiz, which includes a free course. Find what’s most effective for you and how you can improve your fundraising strategy and measure and market your impact.
Our team is ready to help by providing the best marketing and impact resources to help you communicate your value, accelerate fundraising, and expand your reach. Schedule a call today.