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Unmesh Sheth 9/8/22 10:50 AM 4 min read

The Art Of Actionable Impact Storytelling

Are you an impact manager looking to communicate the impact story of an enterprise or specific programs?

What is impact storytelling?

Impact storytelling is compelling for raising awareness and funding your initiatives. In the era of the emergence of socially driven organizations, effective impact storytelling can make you stand out from the crowd. Storytelling can help different stakeholders connect with your program on a deeper level. 

The purpose of impact storytelling is to clearly and transparently demonstrate the social impact on people and the planet. Effective communication focuses on transparent reporting on all programs, from the most critical to the least. Compelling storytelling focuses on impact accounting principles defined by commonly accepted standards and frameworks, such as impact management project

You are an impact manager looking to strategize a dashboard. You are presenting your dashboard to the board meeting. You start sharing the dashboard with the board, and your team asks you if they want to see a specific chart. Unfortunately, you have lost a battle. A compelling impact story starts with clear and compelling storytelling. However, what is effective impact storytelling?

Impact Story is NOT

  • Presenting emotional testimony or pictures of beneficiaries that you serve
  • Dashboards full of pie charts, bar charts on how many meals you served

Read More: Economic Development Through Centralized Impact Management Platform

What is the impact story?

Imagine yourself spending several weeks or months building an impact dashboard. Now you have your first chance to explain to your board.  The purpose of communicating social impact is to clearly and transparently share the results of specific impact experiments.  The impact experiment aims to get feedback from stakeholders that can confirm some of your hypotheses.  Experiments can be related to product/program need validation, product/solution fit, or any other. Imagine you have designed your experiment to collect data from internal and/or external sources.

Your first sixty seconds are the most important, and the board will pay attention to the rest of the impact story.  The absence of a strong opener will force you into the rudimentary aspect of the dashboard as your dashboard will pay more attention to chart, color, and font and not what you learned from the impact experiment and how you will make an improvement before the next impact experiment.

Read More: Mentoring Young People into Adulthood with Impact Data

For impact storytelling, you should follow these steps:

  • Impact Statement
  • Impact Summary 
  • Impact Experiment 
  • Future Action: 5–15 min.

Impact Statement

Impact Statement starts with, “What is the problem that we are trying to solve?” Impact Statement is often derived from your mission and vision but is quite definitive. Impact Statement leads to Impact, Outcome, Output, Activities, and Input. 

  • If We...
  • by...
  • then...
  • and ultimately…

 If we provide dignified, affordable housing to these underserved populations

By dignified housing, we care about using quality and sustainable materials as part of the architecture and providing a safe and healthy environment for families.  This includes access to basic amenities, transportation, schools, and businesses.

Then improve affordability and stability

And ultimately ensure a reduction in gentrification within Oakland's downtown

What is impact storytelling?

Read More: Case study: Transforming Families with Affordable Housing in Africa

Impact Summary

This is the most important element of your story. It must be clear, transparent, and with actionable lessons.

A good summary will start with

During the last <..> months, we decided to engage our residents to gather feedback. 

WHAT: An immediate outcome that your impact experiment wanted to validate

whatSocial impact storytelling

WHO: Which stakeholders your program was focused on

Impact Storytelling Example

social-impact storytelling

HOW: Activities necessary to achieve the above outcome

storytelling for social change

storytelling for social changeImpact Storytelling


  • Learning 1
  • Learning 2
  • Learning 3

Read More: New approaches to report social impact in real estate projects

Impact Storytelling example for Affordable Housing Program

social-impact storydissatisfaction-reasons-2022-08-17T09-45-54.141Z

Read More: Design Effective Impact Experiments

Impact Experiment

Impact experiments are short and frequent experiments designed to gather stakeholder feedback.  While an impact experiment can be as simple as asking a few questions to understand product features or other benefits, you should consider following to get an in-depth impact analysis.

  • Theory Of Change
  • Stakeholder Survey
  • Goal
  • Stakeholder Survey Link
  • Survey Type
  • Population Size
  • Sample Size
  • Confidence Level
  • Margin Of Error

Read More: Demystifying Social Impact Management


Impact Evidence

While impact experiments focus on actual stakeholder feedback, organizations should often focus on other evidence. While everyone's situation may be unique, you may want to consider following different options.

  • External Research
  • External Data
  • Data Unification and Query Approach 
  • Scoring 
  • Other Calculations
  • Benchmarking

Read More: 3 Steps to Move from Shareholder to Stakeholder Impact


Impact Story from Leading Social Enterprises

If you are looking to raise impact capital, you must listen to following impact stories by four leading social enterprise.


Storytelling for Social Change: TAB Design

In Dashboard TAB offers unique separation to separate topics. However, the choice of TAB should be carefully considered. Depending on the type of organization, you have an opportunity to design a dashboard based on primary goals. For examples, 

Social Impact Program Aligned To Impact Management Project (IMP) can use -

  • WHAT
  • WHO

Funders might want to design based on impact portfolio composition.

  • Aggregated Results
  • Tabs By Portfolio Company
  • Tabs By Impact Theme
  • Tabs By Region
  • Tabs By SDG 

Read More: The Impact Management Journey of Social Enterprises

Image: Canva


Unmesh Sheth

32 years of track record In technology companies, innovation, leadership. Deep understanding of bottom-up and top-down data trust challenges in high impact philanthropy and impact investments.