How Do You Describe Your Impact?
- Can you measure what you have done?
- How do you detail the impact your programs have had on your target community?
- How do you quantify your nonprofit’s impact?
- What do those numbers mean?
Mistake: Only looking at numbers
Focusing exclusively on numbers, financial snapshots and overhead percentages can be a mistake. Data, and all that word includes, is very valuable and is an important source of information that many nonprofits struggle to provide to their donors and prospects. Some organizations do not know how to develop metrics for their work, some are so understaffed that collecting and regurgitating all these numbers into something useful can seem either daunting, impossible, or both.
What do they actually mean?
Understanding what the data means can also be a hurdle; stacks of numbers are meaningless unless they have a context. Data has to become information before it can be useful.
The numbers must show results, trends and how close, or far away, are the goals you are seeking truly are. The numbers have to be more than abstract, they have to have some connection to what you are actually doing.
Don’t torture people
Cut to the chase, start with the conclusion. Of course you will back up your conclusions with the right tables,graphs and charts; they must direct, clear and easy to visualize what all that data is showing. Simple is always better, and more effective. Tell us what those numbers mean, what they show, only then bring in the back up.
Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story
There is so much more to the story, though. Many for profit companies can clearly see their profit, or loss, and that is how they determine their success. But that is not the case for nonprofit organizations: there is a layer of social complexity that accompanies any nonprofit work. The stark clarity of profit versus loss in a nonprofit can’t reveal the extent of engagement and integration that is part of the work to create change.
Accomplishing the mission of a nonprofit involves a number of different groups: there are boards of directors, staff, volunteers, clients and donors. Each of these groups has a slightly different take on how things can be done, and sometimes conflicting interests. The work they do includes helping people or causes, engaging decisions makers, soliciting donors and making a shift in the status quo, a broad scope.
Integrating these overlapping but individual sectors with their own perspectives and interests is very challenging and is impossible to measure. These sometimes conflicting constituencies and interests need to be engaged, and this kind of engagement can’t always be quantified.
The answer does not lie solely in data, or storytelling. The solution is combination of the two; tailor the amount of each for the person or company that you are targeting.
Numbers and Stories BOTH Matter
Back up the human stories with the numbers, humanize the numbers with a real world example of what you do. It has been said that statistics are human with the tears wiped away, don’t let the numbers overwhelm the story and the point. Numbers and data are critical to illustrate what you have done and what you want to do, and expand the story of the one example to all you wish to touch.
Data shows what is happening, and Stories show why it matters.
Let’s combine your stories and data to bring your work alive.
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