Whether you tell stories in your fundraising or communications program, chances are you want to understand the impact and return on investment (or ROI) of the stories you tell. One of the best storytelling tips I can give you is to set yourself up for measurement success from the very beginning. It can be near impossible to measure the success of a story if you haven’t first thought about what your desired outcomes are and drivers of success.
In this video tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to set up a story measurement system, and how to track and analyze your data.
You can also read through the blog post below to get a step-by-step guide to setting up your story measurement system.
Begin with the End in Mind: What’s Your Desired Outcome?
The very best advice I can give you on storytelling is to always start with the end in mind. After all, if you don't know what it is you’re trying to achieve, how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Storytelling is a tool that supports various fundraising and communications strategies and goals. Start by narrowing down what you’re using storytelling for. Here’s a few examples:
- Telling a story in a fundraising email. Here's my proven advice for writing high performing fundraising emails.
- Using a story in a social media post. Here are some of my favorite storytelling non-profits on social media. Lots of examples for your inspiration folder!
- Writing a press release with a personal story
- Adding a story to a donation page
- Showcasing a story on your programs page
You might have other examples of how you use stories at your non-profit. Make a list as those will be the most relevant examples for you to work with!
What Do You Want the Story To Do or Accomplish?
Now you’ve identified how you’re using the story, we’re going to get into the weeds to identify your metrics and markers of success. For this part of the process, you’ll want to identify what it is you’re hoping the story will do.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean by this.
- Telling a story in a fundraising email: you might want the story to increase the CTR in the email or maybe you want the story to increase your donations
- Using a story in a social media post: you might want the story to increase your post clicks or shares to drive more program sign ups
- Showcasing a story on your programs page: you may want to increase your program enrollment rate
As you can see in each of these examples, there are specific elements of the tactic that we want a story to enhance. Thinking about your own use case for stories, pin down what element you want stories to enhance or improve.
Crunch the Numbers
We really can’t talk about measuring ROI without talking about our numbers. In a business sense, the return on investment means that we are factoring in what we put in at the beginning against the rewards we may reap.
Arguably, measuring ROI on any kind of communication or marketing activity is a channel. The Marketo blog has a great deep dive on why this is and what you can do about it.
Let’s do a deep dive on one example so you can see how this might work. We’ll use sharing a story in social media posts as our example.
Additional resource costs
Number of Posts w/ a Story
Collective Posts Reach
Total Engagements on Posts
Clicks to Website
Program sign ups
It’s going to be harder to measure the ROI on one social media post so I would pick a time frame for measure. This could be a quarter, month or week. You’ll start with your initial “investment” costs like staff time and additional costs (ie photos). From there, I would tally up the total number of posts that included a story. Then add up the posts’ reach and engagement.
Now for the metrics beyond total engagement on the posts, this is where you’ll customize your measurements further. For this example, I used clicks to the website and program sign ups. In this example we’d consider the program sign ups to be the return.
Zooming out here on this table, you can see that this works backwards through the program participant journey to register. You could do something very similar for a donor journey to making a donation where you would measure each of the steps in the process to see what kind of results that story is helping to drive.
Storytelling Tips: Create Benchmarks for Comparison
One final piece of advice I’ll share about measuring the ROI on stories is to have a benchmark for comparison. I say this because getting a pure A/B test can be a challenge. This is not like running a subject line test in email where we can get a clear, reliable result. With measuring the success of story content against non-story content, we have to have performance benchmarks.
Going back to our example of stories in social media posts one last time, I would look at historical data. Like a week or a series of posts where you did not use story-based content. Then plug in the metrics for those posts into the same table we used for looking at ROI of the story-based content. This will give you a starting point for comparison and assessment of your strategy.
Additional Resources to Continue Your Learning
Being strategic with your storytelling pays off. Read this post to learn how to create your non-profit’s annual story strategy.
Has your organization been telling stories for a while? Find your next best storytelling step in this post.
Need some storytelling inspiration? How to tell stories like Best Friends Animal Society.