Among a nonprofit’s greatest marketing assets are the rich, colorful and meaningful stories that come from impacting so many lives. These stories offer different perspectives, showcase varying outcomes and weave together mission, vision and impact to showcase why an organization matters and why it’s worthy of grantors’, community partners’ and private donors’ support. You may notice a common thread in the above. And, that thread is impact. Impact is why people invest in nonprofits, how organizations know they are upholding and fulfilling their missions and why nonprofit organizations play such an important role in the communities in which they serve. So, how do you talk about impact without becoming brag-a-saurus rex and turning people off from aligning themselves and their charitable giving with your cause?
Be the conduit, not the mouthpiece
While it is important to own your organization’s successes and to tout them appropriately – annual report, website, speeches, volunteer recruitment events, etc. – the most compelling stories are told by those whom your organization directly impacts. Who better to tell stakeholders how important your senior nutrition program is, that your emergency support services are invaluable or that your advocacy efforts are changing lives than the people who are experiencing the benefits of your work first-hand?
While client confidentiality and other sensitive factors may not always make it possible for a client to stand up at your signature fundraising event or be part of a video where they share their story, there are several other anecdotal ways – social media updates, appeal letters, newsletter snapshots, to name a few – to bring their perspective to the table while showcasing your organization’s impact in a meaningful and relatable way. Just think, you may even be able to have clients pen ‘thank you’ notes to your donors to let them know just how important their gift was.
A few years ago, we helped to publicize the success of a nonprofit’s recycling program and partnership with a corporate office park. Cans and bottles are, well, cans and bottles. So, how did we help people to understand just how successful the program had been? We equated the volume of cans and bottles collected to the size of the Eiffel Tower – something everyone could envision – and supplemented it with stories of how the funds from cans and bottles collected helped the nonprofit’s clients to enjoy some special activities.
For advocacy organizations, drawing parallels can be particularly important since the intricacies of legislation can be hard to understand. Remember, while the news is that the legislation has passed, your stakeholders want to know what the impact of that decision is, and, how your organization’s role in getting that legislation to pass benefits your clients, upholds your mission and strengthens your cause.
Do the math
While knowing your numbers can go a long way in quantifying a nonprofit’s impact, a deluge of statistics and factoids can be overwhelming for stakeholders. So, how do you quantify success in a digestible and relatable way? Enter the sidebar in your e-newsletter, the infographic that goes on your blog and the charts that go in your annual report. Most importantly, enter the lines that connect the dots.
For example, if your nonprofit successfully championed the passage of two bills that were key to increasing state funding for your cause, quantify how many more clients that money will allow you to serve. By serving that many more clients, what outcomes will you effect? How will the community benefit from this? Why should donors still invest in your cause when you just got more state funding?
It seems like a lot of ground to cover in a small amount of space (remember, we don’t want to overwhelm your stakeholders) but what it all boils down to is a well-told story. A story with a central character, a challenge, a solution and outcomes – quantifiable and meaningful outcomes to which your stakeholders can relate.
With impact at the center of your stories – and an eagle eye on this all-important bottom line – storytelling is a tremendous opportunity for nonprofits to articulate all of the key points of their organization without simply reiterating “We’re great. We need your support.” In nonprofit marketing, the ‘what’ is important, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ matter most.