Impact Stories for Nonprofits

As a nonprofit leader, you likely have two main areas of focus: 1) Serving the mission of your nonprofit and 2) Raising funds (and awareness) to be able to continue to do the work. 

Building awareness of your nonprofit and securing funding may not be the easiest or most fun parts of your job. But they’re necessary. Though 360MatchPro’s research found that there was a 4.2% increase in 2022 over 2021 in total charitable giving, the economy continues to be a bit shaky, and you may not be able to rely on your past donors. You likely have goals not just for funding, but increasing the number of new donors and people who support your cause.

This means you need to continue to develop your strategies to build dedicated fans of your organization. This allows you to support the people and needs that are important.

Ricky Chilcott, Founding Partner at Mission Met shares:

“As a nonprofit leader, you need to strike a delicate balance between appealing to the head and the heart of donors, grantors, board, staff, and volunteers. All “head” (i.e. facts, figures, and stats) without stories (“the heart”) of the real impact will not compel your stakeholders to act with their wallets and feet. A robust and expanding set of stories about the impact you’re making in the community will appeal to their human side and lead to greater success.”

Appeal to the head and heart with Impact Stories. 

What is an Impact Story for a Nonprofit?

An impact story is similar to a case study in a traditional business setting. These are story-driven narratives about the people or causes your non-profit has served. They share data, but with a focus on the human element. A strong impact story shows how your organization’s work is meaningful, with facts and figures, but most importantly, an element of heart: the impact.

When you share the impact that your organization has had on an individual or group, you’re helping to create positive emotions and feelings of connection. This can move someone to want to give. Or, if they’re not ready to give now, they’re more likely to remember your organization later when they’re able to donate and will ideally share about your cause with others. 

Impact stories can be written using compelling images like the people you help or charts of facts and figures or be created as narrative videos where visual and design elements are woven together for maximum impact. 

At Audience Ops, we always recommend video impact stories–not only can you create written content from the interview, but the video allows your viewers to be engaged by the voice, images and visual content you share. Hearing a person share about the ways your organization has touched their lives can create more emotion and action than just the written word. Additionally, a video impact story can then be repurposed in a number of ways. 

Importance of Fundraising for Nonprofits

We’d be preaching to the choir here if we spent much time on this. You know why fundraising as an NP is important:

  • You can’t continue serving your cause without funding
  • Fewer people/causes will benefit from your organization’s if you can’t secure funds
  • You run the risk of not being able to continue your nonprofit if you don’t have donations

The Connection Between Impact Stories and Fundraising

360MatchPro’s research found that when it comes to being inspired to give, 32% of donors give via social media, 30% by email, 17% via your website, 15% through print and 5% total through TV or radio ads, phone calls or text messages.

Impact stories can (and should) be used in social, email, and your organization’s website. Video impact stories can be used across these platforms.

  • Your full impact story can be on your website and YouTube Channel
  • Shorter clips sized for your social platforms can be used for organic or paid campaigns and can link to the full story or a landing page for giving
  • Images and quotes from the main story can be used for print (we like to create one-page designed content for each impact story)

Not only can Impact Stories help with immediate giving, but they can be part of a longer-term fundraising strategy.

  • If your nonprofit has tables at events, you can have printed copies of your impact stories, or if tech allows, play various clips of stories that people can view when they visit your booth. 
  • You may create a monthly series where you highlight one of your stories across your marketing channels.
  • You can also share these stories over the course of an email series with new donors or people who have expressed interest in supporting your NP. Alison Furtis, Director, Communications and Marketing for Church Health shares, “our stories of the month email campaigns draw a higher open rate of around 40% as compared to an industry standard of 20%. Our biggest donors would rather hear a patient story than anything else.”

Once you have an interview recorded and turned into an assortment of assets, you have many options for how to connect with donors and appeal to both the heart and the head. Each of these assets have the potential to build trust with donors, bring them further into the story of the individual and mission of your organization, and develop a personal connection with your cause. 

Church Health in Memphis, TN has made it a point to collect stories about their patients. Learn about John and his experience with Church Health. Consider how this story and the way it’s crafted would compel someone to donate.

Interested in creating Impact Stories?

Here are our top tips for creating and using Impact Stories for Nonprofits

1.Remember the Role of Emotion in Fundraising 

Connection is a human need and when we feel connected to something, we’re more invested and willing to give our support. You can build this emotional connection through personal narratives. This is why you need to go beyond the data and numbers. How?

2. Turn Statistics into Stories

You want to humanize your data. Yes, the numbers will catch the attention of some people, but what do these numbers mean? Share the story of a person or two who is part of that “number.” You’re making the cause relatable and increasing the likelihood of giving. 

3. Create a Series of Success Stories

One story is great but having the ability to showcase different stories is even better because you have more reasons to get in touch with current and potential donors and more ways to build connection and trust.

Alison Furtis of Church Health says Telling the stories of our patients from their perspective and that of the providers who work here creates such trust and brings in donors and patients alike. These stories have shed light on our patient population, and some donors know or employ patients and offer their stories to us. Some of our best patient stories come from donor leads.”

4. Create Community Among Your Donors

When someone gives to your cause, they are now a part of the community that also contributes. Remember how important connection is? Help your individual donors understand how their contributions work with the donations of others and the collective impact they have together. 

Consider events for local donors to thank them or ways they can also give back in person and further connect with the cause and the others who support it. 

5. Client stories can be used as a Thank You

You likely have a “thank you for donating” email or letter that goes to your donors, but consider using these impact stories as part of this follow up. Help your contributors understand that their donation impacted the life of people just like the one in the video. 

Not sure how to get started? We wrote a series on creating case studies and much of that applies to nonprofit impact stories as well. Want to partner up? Reach out!

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