Like any other storytelling, Impact Storytelling is also an art. In your social impact report how do you mix qualitative data with quantitative data? And tell a story which not only communicates intended social impact but also represents all the stakeholders, brings back learnings to the beneficiaries, brings funding to scale good results and fills the gap in large development picture. It should also be is an honest and transparent method to build future steps on it.
Storytelling Impact is an art and strategy because only pictures do not tell the story and only data does not prove the impact.
What should we include in our impact communication?
Social Impact Report Design
This is perhaps a most critical section that should be written in the end after all the impact results are aggregated. More in-depth and quality results will help you in creating the most convincing summary. Depending on your target segment, you will have a different messaging. For example, for non-profits, often president or executive director’s message can be very effective.
Social Impact Goals
Depending on your role, you are either reporting overall organization’s work, or a portfolio of the investment, or a single initiative's or program's effectiveness, or social return on investment of the programs.
Impact goals can be outcome-oriented or based on indicators.
This can be represented in two ways. One, aligning with your mission and project goals or globals goals such as sustainable development goals (SDGs) or community impact goals.
While there is no clear guideline, we recommend managing indicators internally to monitor social, financial and operational is very important for collective impact reporting. Often we recommend using five key indicators with three years of comparison to see. While this process works well, often sustainability reporting tends to be more verbose as they are designed for a regulatory purpose.
Impact Goals: Connecting back to the Actionable Impact Management Volume One: Groundworks.
Impact Storytelling & Impact Learning
Charts can be very effective in communicating your impact. Depending on what you are trying to communicate, you could employ a variety of charting options. For example, portfolio or demographics can be easily be represented on pie or donut charts. Progress on an individual, batch/cohort can be represented using radar chart and program effectiveness can be represented using bubble chart.
Using Beneficiary Voice in Impact Storytelling
The best report should highly consider including direct beneficiary voice with pictures and stories. Feedback loop based on direct reporting, for example on the website, provide a anonymous feedback which can often show that organization is truly transparent. The transparent organization should develop simple approach such as net promoter score (NPS) or progress out of poverty (PPI) based approach and involve beneficiary in their feedback and storytelling.
Social Accountability while Communicating Impact Learnings
While beneficiary voice and story are critical, typically there are many stakeholders involved in any organization's mission. The organization should develop a comprehensive approach to define how each stakeholder helps improve program outcome. Based on impact management goals (see above), a comprehensive framework should be developed that demonstrates that enterprise is effective in a whole range of accountability: financial reporting, governance, social performance, and environmental reporting.
Depth of Impact Learning & CommunicationThe most effective funders often involves the key supporting organization in developing an effective framework. Often they not only define outcomes and metrics but also the dept of data collection, data aggregation, summarization, and reporting. It is often useful to develop a data trust relationship (and not just personal trust relationship), as good data management on enterprise level helps serve their client or get a better product feedback, making them socially accountable.
The impact story is only worth all the effort if it can be communicated to the audience effectively. How will you reach your audience? It is a science of meeting them where they are. Read in detail about Impact communication in Actionable Impact Management Guidebook Volume Four: Communication.
Learn More: Impact reporting
Written by Hetal Sheth
The founder of Ektta, and co-founder of SoPact, Hetal holds a deep passion for establishing enduring impact management practices in social sector to have a built in learning and accountability.