Ban the word “impact” from your non-profit vocabulary.
As we discussed on Monday, there are a number of problems with using the word “impact” in your non-profit fundraising and communications materials. Chiefly that using the word on its own is ambiguous and doesn’t actually explain to donors what their gift is going towards.
You’ve Defined Your Impact. Now What?
Let’s say you went through the suggested exercise in Monday’s blog post and you established metrics that reflect the steps your organization is taking to fulfill your mission and vision.
How do we now roll those metrics into our communications and fundraising appeals?
The tradition path to reporting impact might be something like the average non-profit annual report – a slough of numbers. But the problem with this is that the average donor won’t really understand what those numbers people. So we might throw in this sentence, “Look at the impact you’ve been a part of!”
But still the question remains – do your donors really understand what you’re trying to tell them? Chances are that they are not.
One solution to this is to tell stories that support your explanation of your organization’s impact.
Stories provide your audience with contextualized, bite-sized information that they can easily understand and empathize with. More importantly, stories give donors a sense of the micro-level of their impact – one individual’s life – and when they can imagine that, they can imagine countless others like that one person who they’ve helped.
How to Find a Story that Illustrates Impact
Finding a story that illustrates your organization’s impact isn’t as challenge as your might think.
In fact, once you’ve determined that metrics that reflect your impact you are well on your way to finding a story! Your next step is to find an individual whose personal experience supports that metric.
For the sake of considering an example, let’s think about a non-profit organization whose mission is to help low-income men and women find work.
Their impact metric (and maybe the only metric they need to measure) is how many men and women have found employment as a result of the organization’s support.
The impact story that they would want to look for and tell is that of a man or woman who has gained employment by working with that non-profit.
The thing about explaining impact and telling stories about your organization’s impact is that doesn’t have to be complicated. It can actually be very simple.
I suspect that if you moved towards more meaningful communication with donors, you would see greater cultivation in some of those relationships.