Angel Oak Creative works with nonprofits dependent on all types of funding sources. From fee-for-service to individual donors to grant-funded organizations, each one brings with them unique communications challenges. One challenge we’ve run into fairly consistently is that grant-funded organizations have difficulty identifying and telling compelling stories.
It’s not that grant-funded organizations don’t have great stories to tell. In fact, it is most likely just the opposite. Because of their consistent and reliable funding sources, these nonprofits are able to make considerable impact in the communities they serve. But this funding is a blessing and a curse. The curse is that with grant funding comes requirements to spend considerable time and effort tracking the statistical impact. While this is not all bad, it tends to put the focus on numbers rather than people, resulting in dry, impersonal, and flat stories.
But due to changes in recent government leadership, these consistent and reliable funding sources are at risk. This makes it imperative that these organizations begin to move from solely focusing on statistics to telling personal stories of impact that move individual donors to give. Here are a few suggestions to help you go from stats to story:
1. Connect every statistic to a personal success
Have you lowered dropout rates or increased graduation rates? That’s awesome! Tell us about Stacy who decided to stay in school and how your program has helped her learn better study habits and the pride she feels in bringing home a great report card to her mother. That kind of story helps connect those flat numbers to a fantastic success. Here are examples of stories of impact from our client Hope Reins that turn stats into stories.
2. Get personal with multimedia
Statistics alone are not only dry, they also lack personal connection. If you’re relying solely on flat words to tell your story, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to make a more emotional connection. Check out this video we produced for Mosaic Development Group helping tell a story about the impact of their affordable housing work as just one example of how rich media can take an interesting story and make it even more engaging and compelling.
3. Engage your team in finding stories
The most successful storytelling organizations are the ones where their staff, volunteers, and supporters are enlisted to help identify the most compelling stories. They are on the front lines of your work and see firsthand the impact you’re making. Equip them with examples of the stories for which you’re looking and provide them a way to submit them to you and your team for follow up. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the quality and quantity of stories that are uncovered when you have an entire team searching for them.
Does your organization focus on numbers or names? Stats or stories? For the grant-funded organization, it is challenging not to fall into the trap of leaning more on numerical impact than on individual stories of success. But times are changing and securing grant funding isn’t as predictable as it used to be. So there’s no time like the present to shift your focus from flat stats to engaging stories of impact. For more insights into nonprofit marketing and communications, check out our Nonprofit Nuggets.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant