We know our impact is there – it’s this intangible warm fuzzy feeling that is the reason why we do what we do. How do we communicate this impact to others outside of our profession? In many ways, impact demonstration is like marketing. Effective engagement follows similar marketing strategies. The one we’ll dive into today starts with identifying your personas, building out the context of your impact narrative, deciphering how to display the information, and finally, spreading the word.Anticipate your Audiences
Who’s interested – and what are they interested in? This is the definition of your primary personas – the key stakeholders of your organization (beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, funders, donors, researchers, etc.).
Go ahead and scatter the names of your personas down the left side of a sheet of paper:
Context is all about making the content around your impact come to life for your audience. There are different ways to give context. One way is to align it to a greater effort like the Global Goals – the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is helpful for personas with a global mindset – perhaps a funder or research institution. Another way to give context is as it relates to a community or a united effort (like supporting education). Through a clear and concise supporting narrative to the data or to the story you are highlighting, you can give context. This practice revolves around transparency and requires an honest effort to accurately paint a picture of the reality on the ground.
On that same sheet of paper, to the right of the names, write down any notes for context you find relevant to each persona:
Consider the best method for displaying the information to your persona. Think about the advantages to the various methods for display (visualized data for quick insights; stories to enable empathy, etc.) Here are a few examples of display methods:
- Scorecard: Demonstrates progress toward a goal
- Social Return on Investment (SROI): Valuation of impact, a practice that is most popular in Europe
- Resource: Social Value International
- Storytelling: Communicate the human side of your activities, taking on the perspective of one of your stakeholders
- Resource: Creativity's Role in Impact Storytelling
- Infographics: Designed for quick educational insights driven by visualized data
Now, see if there are certain displays that are particularly applicable to your personas:
Who is it for? – Here are some examples of various stakeholders you might have and the different methods for engagement around communicating your social impact. Be sure to understand the varied needs and levels of importance each group holds to your organization and reflect this in your approach. For example, if your organization relies on a group of volunteers who dedicate a great deal of their time to serving your mission, perhaps you want to highlight their names in your impact report as you would for financial donors. Or perhaps you want to do a story highlight of one of their experiences, taking special note to tag them when appropriate on social media. Communicating your impact can be more than simply a practice of transparency – it can be a driving force for establishing a community within the ecosystem of your operations.
- Impact Report: A robust report that contains both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Could be for funders and/or public.
- Example: Unreasonable Institute Impact Report
- Impact Briefings: A quick update for internal use with visualized data narrated by text – perhaps distributed at board meetings or staff meetings.
- Mailings/Postcards: A wonderful way to drive targeted engagement – typically with current donors as a ‘thank you’ with impact updates.
- Emails: Campaigns to individuals such as donors or volunteers to drive continued engagement. Other email campaigns to groups could be for recruiting purposes. Including impact is a great way to add value to your email.
- Social Media: Impact-oriented social media updates are a great way to continuously update your stakeholders on your impact. Scorecards and visualized data – infographics do very well.
- Blogs: Blogs are a great way to reach out across your community, educating around your united effort (education; health care; etc.) or sharing the stories and experiences of volunteers, donors, staff, and beneficiaries.
- PPT presentation: PowerPoint presentations are great for employee onboarding; volunteer onboarding; as well as updating board members and the broader community about your impact efforts. They primarily contain visualized data – typically, the fewer words, the better.
Fianally it’s time to document the best methods for delivering your social impact message to each of your persona groups.
Streamline those Messages
Much of your impact correspondence is recurring in its delivery and style. For example, if donors are important to your organization, you have two camps: (1) current donors that are hoping to build a relationship with; and (2) potential donors both old and new.
If there is primary data you are collecting on your impact that is influential to your donors, you may want to have a layout of that data.
At SoPact, we call these layouts ‘Impact Cards’ and each is customized to communicate a specific impact message to a specific stakeholder. Impact Cards are stored within the software system, Impact Cloud. The layout you create for new donors might be similar, but the messaging changes (instead of “Thank you,” it’s “Join the Movement”).
By organizing your messaging and impact demonstration method (data visualization v. scorecard v. storytelling) around the persona of your stakeholder, you can more effectively get across the message of your social impact.