Communicating Impact: How Nonprofits Can Leverage Storytelling

Amid economic uncertainty, it’s especially important for nonprofit organizations to communicate their funding needs effectively. Inflation only drives up overhead costs, which support the infrastructure central to mission delivery. Donors feeling the financial strain of the current economic environment may be unable to give as much or as often as they usually do.

At the same time, donors want to know how their contributions are supporting program or service outcomes. Here are a few ways nonprofits can leverage storytelling to demonstrate their impact and make the case for continued – or additional – financial support during challenging times.

Find firsthand perspectives

How can nonprofits demonstrate their positive impact in a memorable way that garners support? Storytelling grounded in authenticity can help. Sharing real, firsthand accounts from those the organization serves (with their permission) can make the importance of the mission more tangible. These mini case studies humanize a nonprofit’s impact in a way that statistics or second-hand anecdotes do not, forging emotional connections among donors, the organization, and those the organization serves.

Look beyond the numbers

When it comes to demonstrating success, it’s no secret that metrics matter. But statistics alone don’t tell a comprehensive story. When sharing details such as the number of constituents served or other impact data, it’s important to contextualize the significance. What has reaching more people meant for the community at large? How have external factors, such as changing economic tides or the pandemic, come into play? Conducting qualitative research—through interviews, surveys, or other means—is just as important as collecting hard numbers.

Tailor to audience needs

A core tenet of any communications program is considering and tailoring approaches to specific audience needs. Nonprofits should think about who they are trying to connect with when determining which stories to leverage and how to tell them. What will resonate best with each audience? Where are the best places to reach each audience, and what are the most effective ways to communicate with them? The audience an organization serves is likely different from the audience they ask for support, which means they have separate concerns or interests—but both are essential to reach.

Optimize touchpoints

Every touchpoint with the public is a touchpoint with prospective donors. While traditional impact reports are a great way to showcase organizational growth and success, there are other avenues nonprofits can use to highlight how they are supporting their constituents. Pitching heartwarming, timely stories to media can help foster greater awareness of nonprofits, both locally and on a national stage. Social media can help nonprofits connect with different audiences, including a younger generation of future or even current donors. How can organizations leverage different platforms and communications vehicles to drive support?

Communication is key

As nonprofits look to maintain and build upon their relationships with current and prospective donors and communities, storytelling will be a key tool.

If people understand what an organization does, why it matters, how it helps those in need, and how they can play a role, they will be more likely to show their support—through volunteering, donating, or even spreading the word. Nonprofits that tailor their approach to reach key audiences, maximize touchpoints, go beyond the numbers, and include firsthand perspectives of those helped will be better positioned to build these connections, demonstrate the full scope of their impact, and continue driving their mission forward.

By Sarah Eisler