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Improving data-driven storytelling for grantmakers: 3 steps

May 14, 2023
Three coworkers meet at a shared desk covered in papers and laptops and discuss how to improve their data-driven storytelling strategy.

Grantmakers work every day to make an impact within their communities, supporting them through different avenues such as community funds, donor-advised funds, and endowments. It’s important to share the results of these efforts effectively, and that’s where data-driven storytelling is key.

To ensure your efforts are providing the greatest impact and to tell compelling stories of that impact, you’ll want key information about the people and communities who benefitted from your efforts. Let’s dive into three important steps you can take to improve data-driven storytelling by focusing on your community.

1. Learn about your community and its challenges 

First and foremost, grantmakers should establish a baseline of the challenges facing their community. Unfortunately, many nonprofits lack reliable data, as they may not have the technology in place to track data easily and accurately. However, they can provide a big-picture view of the challenges they are facing.

Work with your nonprofit partners regularly to build relationships, identify these key challenges, and ask questions to learn more about the demographic landscape of your community. Learn about which of your efforts have been successful, which could use improvement, and what is missing. Not only is this a great way to inform your DEI initiatives, but it will also help ensure you are providing equitable and valuable support to your community. Finally, ask questions about resourcing. For example, would your nonprofit community benefit from a technology capacity-building program like Bonterra Jumpstart?

Be intentional with the questions you ask and the format you use to collect information to ensure you are not putting undue stress on your nonprofit partners. By genuinely listening and learning, you’ll become a trusted partner, allowing you to establish a broader understanding of your community and incorporate the information you gain into your impact stories. 

2. Consider qualitative and quantitative data for impact stories 

Once you have established your baseline and identified initiatives to tackle community needs, take the time to talk to key stakeholders for each program. Your audience—whether that be board members, donors, or even community members—will appreciate these personal stories, which bring life to the work you’re doing beyond the facts and figures.

When seeking qualitative data for your impact stories, talk to grantees to collect quotes and stories of what their beneficiaries gained from your programs. They may be able to tell you more about specific beneficiaries they were able to help thanks to a grant they received, or how they were able to invest in their organization’s infrastructure. Ask fundholders to share why they invested in certain initiatives and the impact they hoped to make through their investment. Consider what you’ve learned from your nonprofit community and what led you to establish your particular program or grant.

Highlighting these testimonials adds a human element to your impact stories. Striking the right balance between quantitative and qualitative data is essential for compelling grantmaker narratives. That’s why improving your data-driven storytelling is so essential, as it allows you to meld big-picture data and illustrate your overall community impact.

3. Invest in capacity building

The easiest way to improve data-driven storytelling is to go to the source. If your nonprofit community does not have the tools in place to track important data and metrics, success stories can fall flat. While personal stories are compelling, they must be supported by the nonprofit’s fundraising data, such as return on investment, average gift amount, and donor retention rates. This will solidify the success stories you tell and ultimately lead to future investment.

That’s why grantmakers must invest in technology for their nonprofit partners. Since many nonprofits do not have updated technology or software in place, tracking these important metrics can be challenging and time-consuming. Investing in capacity building will not only help nonprofits track important data points, but it will also set them up for long-term success. Funding technology like donor management and fundraising software will improve the efficiency of nonprofits, allowing them to make a greater impact and reach their goals.

Enhancing storytelling and helping nonprofits

Improving data-driven storytelling isn’t an isolated task—it is inseparable from helping your nonprofit partners build the infrastructure they need. Whether that’s understanding your nonprofit’s community and beneficiaries on a deeper level or investing in technology to improve data tracking, these improvements will help your nonprofit partners work towards their purposes and help you source valuable stories that demonstrate the impact you’re making.

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