Sharing Your Impact: Combining Storytelling and Outcome Data

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For years nonprofits have used storytelling as a way to share the impact of their work with donors and the community.  Typically these stories illustrate a specific case of how one client was transformed by an organization’s efforts.  These stories often provide the reader with an emotional connection to the nonprofit and can serve as powerful examples of how an organization is truly working to make a difference.

At the same time, funders and stakeholders are increasingly interested in outcome data, the measurable changes or benefits that have occurred as a result of the program. It is often not enough just tell stories about client successes. Funders and supporters want access to evaluation data to ensure that positive results are being achieved for not just one client, but for many. In fact, when we interviewed funders for our recent study Measuring Nonprofit Impact, they shared they would like to see organizations improve their ability to use data to “tell their story” and share their mission with the community.  

So how can your organization effectively combine storytelling and outcome data to better illustrate the impact you are making?  Consider using a dashboard (also referred to as a results card) that mixes the two!  Below is an example of a results card from The Cara Program, a job placement nonprofit based in Chicago, in which they use both data and a case example to tell their story more effectively.

In this example the Cara program nicely blends the story of one participant’s success along with information on the program including:

  • Performance indicators– the measurable data, usually in the form of a number or percent, that indicates how well the program is doing in meeting its outcomes
  • Goals (also known as targets)- the specific number or percent that defines success for the program
  • Mission statement– a concise statement that explains what the nonprofit is attempting to accomplish

By including outcome data, the Cara program’s powerful story of one client’s success is made even more meaningful. I also love the infographics and the simplicity of the data- very clear and easy to understand.

Do you have other examples of how your organization has effectively combined storytelling with outcome data?  Please consider posting your examples to the 501(c)ommunity. And for ideas on how on to write a compelling impact story, check out the session Storytelling to Increase Impact at this year’s Texas Nonprofit Summit.


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