Stories have been a central pillar of communities throughout history, and for good reason. Before radio, phones, television and social media, oral storytelling was the primary way of sharing information, news and entertainment. Stories were passed from town to town, family to family, generation to generation, all through oral tradition. The reason we can still enjoy these stories today, before any method of communication and documentation like those channels mentioned previously, is the ability for storytelling to communicate ideas in a way that resonates with the listener. 


It is for this same reason today that it is opportunistic for impact organizations to use story to communicate their impact. By using storytelling to communicate ideas you make the complex digestible, maximizing your audience’s ability to understand your activities and intended impact. It also is proven to make the listener feel more ownership over the ideas that you share with story, making it more likely that person will share that story themselves, further inspiring action through a chain reaction. An excellent example in philanthropy is getting buy-in from your board members, making them advocates for your organization in every conversation they have. Stories, versus quantitative results, are more easily repeated and can contextualize key points.

The key to an excellent story? Data. With data at the heart of your story, you will strike an emotional chord with your target audience in a way that resonates most with their previously identified values. By speaking to their concerns, interests or personality traits, you are more likely to inspire action. To craft and tell a compelling narrative requires the incorporation of both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data, the numbers, can’t tell the story of your impact alone. Qualitative data like images, quotes collected through surveys, and research presenting the root problem you are looking to solve, provide the necessary context that turn a story from informational to powerful. A helpful way to set yourself up to use data to inform your narrative is to organize your data points into themes and topic areas. Then when you’re telling your organization’s story to an audience that you know is passionate about a certain geographic location, you can pull in data points easily that support a story focused on that area. 

Each story follows a narrative arc that you can use to organize your data into a portrayal that is designed to resonate with listeners in a way that drives them to share that account, identify with the story, and understand the key points. To create an effective narrative for your foundation, begin with the broken world. What problem is your foundation looking to solve, or where are you looking to make an impact (Source)? By putting the recipient of your efforts at the center of your story, focusing on the audience you’re looking to impact instead of your efforts, listeners will be more likely to resonate with your story and see themselves in the narrative. The result? Stronger likelihood of action. The other crucial item for foundations to consider when crafting a story that inspires action is the emphasis of your role as a mentor to your grantees, and clarity around that mended world you’re looking to create together (Source). By connecting the dots between the current broken world and the mended world we all aspire to, audiences will be able to see the connection between your activity and positive impact with more confidence, driving action.

There are many ways you can use your story to communicate your impact in a way that inspires action. Social media is a popular vehicle when looking to share your story at scale, with the possibility of exposure to new audiences. It is also a way to share real-time information with your followers, rather than waiting for an end-of-year report (Source). Consider different call to actions and content based on the social media platform to maximize your likelihood of driving action with your target audience. For example, Instagram posts should visually depict your story in a compelling way, while Facebook posts tend to do better when emphasizing community and interactive content.

Storytelling may sound like a new and complicated way to communicate your impact. However, as you think about the core elements of storytelling, mentioned above, you will realize it is a pattern you have seen numerous times in the past with for-profit brands, film, books, and more. It is the optimal way to communicate your impact in a powerful way: inspiring action and placing the spotlight on the communities you’re serving through your funding initiatives. If you need to start somewhere, start with just one or two grantees or partners who are working to mend the broken world. As you collect more and more data, expand that story, connecting the dots across all your efforts for one cohesive narrative. 

Learn more about the essentials of storytelling with this free guide.

About UpMetrics:

At UpMetrics, we believe that storytelling has the potential to become the most impactful tool for social impact organizations - especially when those stories are rooted in data. The platform empowers impact organizations to achieve clarity and focus of their impact across activities by combining quantitative and qualitative data functions designed to collect, understand and communicate impact.

Kim Lynes
Post by Kim Lynes
June 24, 2021