By: Melissa Leite
With the increased scrutiny of charities to demonstrate where donor dollars are going, impact has become a term used to validate a charity and their work. Donors want to know the impact a charity has on the community and the causes the charity serves. As charities seek to grow and build philanthropic support, donors are becoming more discerning than ever and are asking tougher questions related to a charity’s performance and effectiveness in achieving its goals.1 Done correctly, sharing stories of impact can demonstrate successes, while describing what a charity does and what differentiates them from other charities.
When communicating to donors, charities need to articulate impact in a simple and tangible way. Quantitative facts should be combined with qualitative stories in a straightforward manner. Sharing a list of statistics is not enough and is not compelling. Visual content, such as an image or video, showing how donations are being used, can help connect donors to the work that they are making possible. Since donors can’t always come and volunteer or see the work first hand, stories allow them to feel like they are on the “inside.”2
Visual content can be consumed quickly and stands out. Infographics are another great way to present numbers and visually demonstrate how donor contributions are being deployed. A great example is this Not Far From The Tree poster. Not Far From The Tree, a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform, does an excellent job of demonstrating the impact of urban fruit picking and communities coming together—using numbers, graphics, and short anecdotes—to reduce urban fruit waste and promote sustainability.
To demonstrate impact, charities should focus on answering the following questions:
- What changes happened as a result of our work?
- What did we accomplish?
- What difference did we make?3
Charities often focus on describing their activities and the issues they’re tackling as opposed to the impact of their work. The focus should be on outcomes and what a charity has accomplished in the community. Depending on the type of charity, an outcome may not be a tangible product or program. An outcome could be a change in process that results in changed laws, beliefs or actions.4 Some desired outcomes may take longer to achieve, but nonetheless, it is important to keep donors informed of progress to date towards achieving a long-term vision of change. Donors want to understand the outcomes, comprehend the stories, and applaud the successes that their investments have made possible.5
Telling individual stories of impact is a compelling way of making a case for support and illustrating the impact of contributions. Binners’ Project, another project on Tides Canada’s shared platform, beautifully shared the story of Michael Leland in the short video I Belong Here, which demonstrated the impact of their work through Michael’s lense. The short video also clearly explained their mission of improving the economic opportunities of binners and reducing the stigma they face as informal recyclable collectors.6
A charity can also showcase impact when expressing gratitude. Stewardship content should thank donors and show them exactly what they helped accomplish. Achieving important goals or milestones for a specific program or project are great opportunities to thank and show donors what their support is helping to achieve. Showcasing impact through gratitude can be done through multiple channels, whether it be thank you letters, newsletters, donation confirmation pages, social media, or impact reports.
Sharing stories of impact is a great way to steward existing donors and cultivate new potential donors. People want to feel connected to the causes they support and want to see what their contributions are helping to achieve. Sharing the impact of your work helps create a sense of community, gets people excited about change, and inspires further engagement. Are you communicating impact to make the most of your donor relationships?
Originally posted on AFP Inclusive Giving’s blog. Melissa is a 2016 AFP Inclusion and Philanthropy Fellow. The goal of this program is to build a pipeline of fundraising leaders that reflect the diversity of our communities.