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3 key steps for crafting a compelling nonprofit impact story

February 12, 2022
This photo for a nonprofit impact story features a woman volunteering at a food drive.

An impact story is an authentic melding of data and emotional anecdotes, providing donors access to both the facts and your nonprofit organization’s story. Essentially, they explain how donors’ gifts are making a difference both with numbers and through meaningful real-life examples.

There are three key steps for crafting an impact story. Let’s dive in!

1. Conduct research

When it comes to crafting an impact story, start with research to gain a strong sense of what your nonprofit has accomplished and what impacts those accomplishments have had. Here are a few ways you can conduct impact-based research:

  • Reflect on what individuals and communities you have most impacted.
  • Consider which individuals and communities you have the most data on.
  • Look through past reports and examine trends.
  • Put together an annual report that shows your year-over-year impact.  

While conducting your nonprofit’s impact research, use technology to streamline the process. For example, you could leverage your donor management software to learn more about what projects donors make gifts to. You can then examine your most popular projects’ outcomes with this information in mind, such as by analyzing if the amount donated correlated with the project’s success or speed of completion.

2. Determine your impact story’s focus

Many nonprofits focus their impact stories on beneficiaries, but there are many other individuals and groups who may have compelling stories to share as well. Here are a few groups you can consider including in your impact story:

  • Beneficiaries.
  • Donors.
  • Corporate partners.
  • Volunteers.
  • Supporters.
  • Greater community.

When deciding on who to center in your impact story, keep in mind that your story needs to spread awareness and build an emotional connection with readers. Use this as an opportunity to establish a stronger relationship with readers, encouraging them to engage further with your nonprofit.

3. Frame your narrative

To keep your impact story compelling, try implementing storytelling elements, which can include: 

  • Stasis. This is where you describe the status quo. Essentially, this is where you will explain the current situation before your nonprofit’s program or initiative.
  • Inciting incident. The inciting incident is the event that forces you to take action. In some cases, this might be a major change in your cause, such as a natural disaster. For other nonprofits, the inciting incident may just be the launch of their program.
  • Rising action. This refers to the period of time between the inciting incident and the climax. Include details about what your nonprofit did, how those actions began making an impact, and any other details that will help readers emotionally connect with your story.
  • Climax. The climax is the peak of the story, where you face your greatest challenge. For a nonprofit, this might be overcoming a particular challenge or a moment of realization where you can report how your efforts have begun to make a real difference. 
  • Falling action. This part of the arc ties up the loose ends of your story and leads to the resolution. Include any follow-up details, such as how your nonprofit continued to help beneficiaries or other goals your project accomplished. 
  • Resolution. This is the end of the story, where you describe the final outcome. For nonprofits, this should include a call to action. This could be to make a donation, sign up to volunteer, or even to just share your story with others to spread awareness. 

There are many other storytelling structures that you can use for your nonprofit impact story. When choosing a format, ensure you keep your impact story’s purpose in mind to create a message that is compelling and encourages supporters to take action.

Ways to use your nonprofit’s impact story

After you’ve completed your impact story, you can begin using it in various ways to raise funds and connect with supporters. For example, here are a few ways you can leverage your impact story:

  • Use it in grant applications.
  • Share the story with your community to draw engagement.
  • Post it across social media.
  • Keep it as a living document and update it regularly.

There is power in how we share our impact and how we get our impact out in the community. Telling the story is easy. The hard part is effectively blending the data and impact into more meaningful stories. This helps nonprofits establish an emotional connection with their supporters, leading to reliable fundraising and engagement.

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