A growing number of nonprofits are creating impact reports to show donors how their contributions have made a difference.
When done well, impact reports can be powerful tools for showing results through hard numbers. But they truly excel when they amplify the metrics with real-life stories and voices that put a face on the organization’s work.
The Massachusetts nonprofit Root Cause married numbers and stories beautifully with its recently released Impact Report: 2021. This piece is especially effective because it provides a clear snapshot of what the organization does, uses simple graphics to display information, and weaves in case studies and testimonials to provide context.
Here is guidance to help you create and present an effective impact report.
Avoid the Temptation to Go Overboard
Donors want to know how their investments in your nonprofit are making an impact — and many supporters want to see metrics.
As a result, it’s tempting to go overboard with reporting numbers. But keep in mind that many readers won’t get through a report full of tables and charts.
It’s better to be selective about what you choose to present in an impact report. Focus on including just the key impact statistics that tell compelling stories and provide context to show how those numbers connect with your mission.
When you create an impact report, work with a graphic designer who is skilled at bringing together data and visuals to create infographics.
The most effective impact reports present data to tell a story and don’t attempt to overwhelm readers with too many numbers.
Include Case Studies
Your impact isn’t measured just in statistics.
It’s the result of your processes. It’s amplified by your partnerships. And it’s shown through the eyes of the people whose lives are improved and changed by your work.
Your impact report, therefore, should include narrative that shows how you achieve your results.
You can do that by including short case studies that tell the story about how you do what you do — and give your results context and color.
The Root Cause impact report cited above mixes infographics and data with several short case studies that describe its partnerships and projects. Each case study is only a paragraph long — but together they provide clarity about how the organization achieves its results and helps readers understand why it succeeds.
Solicit and Share Testimonials
Numbers are a necessary part of your impact story. But they tell only part of that story.
Behind those numbers are people — most notably, the people whose lives are affected by your work.
Your impact report will shine if you amplify your data with the voices of individuals who have been affected by your nonprofit.
These voices can come in the form of short testimonials — one or two sentences — sprinkled throughout or collected on a single page.
Ideally, these testimonials are accompanied by a name and a photo.
For organizations that have clients that require anonymity, you don’t need to include names or photos to make testimonials poignant. A strong quote — even if there isn’t a name attached — delivers a strong message about your impact. You can consider stating the profile of the person who made the comment, “A teen who has been a member of our program for many years,” for example.
Put a Face on Your Organization
When donors choose to invest in your nonprofit, they’re really investing in the team that is charged with achieving your mission.
Use your impact report to show donors the people behind your work. You can do that by including short profiles of key people in your organization or, as Root Cause does, by including a page that displays the names and faces of its entire team.
What’s your experience with creating impact reports? Let us know below, and please share this post with a colleague who may find it timely.