It can be tricky to outline strategies that demonstrate impact because the phrase, “social impact” is vague. Does it pertain to the work we do? Or the way we run the business? Both? For both product and service industries, social impact drives what consumers support, and what they actively avoid. For nonprofits, this simply determines whether they choose to donate.
You’re probably thinking “we’re a nonprofit, of course we’re creating social impact.” And you’re right! But how are you making your constituents feel the impact of your work?
The Importance of Demonstrating Impact
To start, most nonprofits overestimate how much their donors know about their organization. Perhaps some don’t frequent social media, or maybe it’s been a while since they’ve received updates. Get your donors up to speed. Remember that content answers questions.
Sharing impact stories highlights achievements for both the organization and its constituents. Show that you completed this because they contributed that. It’s important to simplify the cause and effect relationship between donors and your mission because nonprofits rely on the goodwill of the community. In addition to donors, share the work that employees and volunteers do that creates the impact. Talk about who’s who in the field, share photos, the before and after of a project, timelines for future projects, and add faces to names.
Demonstrating impact builds trust and attracts support. If you donate to an organization but never see them accomplishing anything, you’ll likely begin to wonder what your money is going towards. Create visuals for donors’ dollars: where does it go, who puts it into motion, how does it work, what does it contribute to? This not only shows how you fulfill your mission, but the breadth of people involved that keeps the machine moving forward.
In addition, it empowers the people who keep the mission moving forward. Sharing impact encourages internal stakeholders to do their part and meet their goals. It holds them accountable but also gives them the recognition they deserve for the hard work they do.
So, how exactly do you demonstrate impact? Get your team together and lay out a theory of change project.
- Intent and design
12 Strategies to Demonstrate Impact:
1. Video Testimonials
Testimonials from your organization’s recipients are a powerful choice because they speak to the direct impact of your work. Their stories and emotions are raw. Video is a great way to share impact because you can gather stories from all over, without the need to have everyone in the same room. Film is a valuable asset because you can share it at events, online, and on social media.
2. Annual Reports
For the data lovers! Annual reports are the most detailed way to show what happened over the last year. What was accomplished? Who joined the team? It’s also worth noting that if your nonprofit is a tax-exempt organization, you’ll likely be required to file an annual report.
3. Impact Letters and Brochures
Write with gratitude. Make these letters personal and inclusive. Do you have donors who gave $10? Thank them for contributing to a specific goal. Do you have donors who gave $10,000? Thank them for spearheading an initiative.
4. Live Events
Celebrate your impact by bringing people together. Some celebration events are huge galas, others are community picnics in the park. No matter what fits for your budget and donor base, face time is always beneficial.
5. Social Media
Share, promote, tag, and cross post! Working at a venue or with another group? Ask them to share your posts. Encourage volunteers to tag you in their posts. It’s free, easy, and connects you with donors personal networks.
6. Tell Stories
Follow a recipient’s journey, take us through the process of how scientists are researching this rare disease. The best stories are the ones that come directly from the person who is impacted by your work. If your organization helps people get off the streets and into stable jobs and housing, let’s hear what they have to say.
7. Follow-Up Campaign
After an event, your follow-up communication is a great opportunity to share impact stories. Donors are engaged, your mission is fresh in their minds. Implement multiple touchpoints after the event to thank donors, show impact, and provide them with upcoming opportunities. Keep supporters engaged in various ways before you go back asking for another gift.
Producing a documentary isn’t feasible for all organizations, but it’s worth exploring for some. Shanti Bhavan created a mini-documentary series on Netflix, Daughters of Destiny, that transports viewers to India, educates them on the untouchables, follows the journeys of their students, and makes viewers feel connected to their school’s work and mission.
9. Hands-On Opportunities
Invite constituents to implement projects that contribute to your mission. Habitat for Humanity is an example of an organization that utilizes volunteers to fulfill its mission of providing housing. Contractors, builders, painters, carpenters, electricians, all offer their time and expertise by getting out there and building houses. Encourage donors to volunteer because it brings them closer to the cause.
Your supporters are your biggest advocates! Give them the resources they need to spread the word, recruit new volunteers, and retain more donors.
11. Media Coverage
Hosting a beach cleanup? Tell the local paper. This will raise awareness about your organization, but it will likely attract new volunteers too. Throwing a flashy party or fashion show? Invite magazines. Some events may even call for the local news station. Inviting journalists is free for you and part of the job, so go get that press!
12. Attend Industry-Related Events
If you run a nonprofit that encourages girls to work in tech look up tech conferences, or other tech industry-related events, to attend. Reach out and ask to speak or set up an information booth to raise awareness about what you’re working to change. If your nonprofit supports research for diseases, get to the next health summit.