What makes for a successful impact report? One answer is, data. Indeed, a distant wave is amassing great size and potential just off of the shore of the world of social impact. With it comes a new standard that requires transparency, accuracy in reporting of activities on the ground, assessment of the spinoff outcomes, and so on - all supported by, you guessed it, data. This is partially due to our previous mistakes (for example, Tom's Shoes). Yet, as inevitable as mistakes are to be an ever-present reality, improvement is obligatory when our customers are overwhelmingly subjected to volatile and unstable circumstances. In many ways, the demand for data is an assertion that data can close the feedback loop - potentially serving as the voice of customers/beneficiaries to those impacting their lives.
So, what makes for a successful impact report? We've stated data, but anything else? Yes. Creative storytelling, and for a couple reasons that serve different purposes.
The first is, that there is a great potential in the power of storytelling. to appeal to the hearts and minds of an audience for not just empathy, but compassion. The purpose that drives this display of storytelling is to appeal for support through demonstrating the importance of the impact efforts.
The second is, that within the confines of a data set, it is nearly impossible to display a sense of the situation or actives. However, woven within a thoughtful framing of a story, we might better paint a picture of the reality we serve - or even a glimpse of the idyllic world we are working towards.
So, what does it look like?
Data management that leverages technology can enhance your ability to manage impact data for collection, aggregation, and analysis. Likewise, creative storytelling that leverages art can enhance our ability to effectively communicate the stories behind the data.
There is no universal outline for an impact report. It depends on what type of organization you are, the type of impact you have, the purpose for your impact reporting, etc. However, there are distinctive recurring themes within well done impact reporting. These include:
- An outline of your impact framework which explains how you measure impact
- Thorough data analysis
- Atories from the field (beneficiaries, investor, enterprise, etc.)
- An attractive design - afterall, a good design draws interst.