As nonprofits, we spend our days delivering services and getting the job done. We deal with programs, budgets, staff — the daily issues of nonprofit life — which often become our stories to potential donors or volunteers. But when donors ask, "What do you do?" they really want to know, "What outcomes are you seeing? What difference are you making in our community?" The HOW is secondary to them, but as staff, it is primary to us. We need to be careful to shift our thinking to outcomes and to tell the stories donors want to hear. Here are five ways to tell more outcome stories that showcase the change you are making.
1. Your story should answer the question, "How is our community better?"
Make sure the story you are telling — whether it is about your organization's founding, a new program, or a specific client — emphasizes how lives were changed. Don't get bogged down with your process. Focus on the results. It is tempting to go into detail about what your organization does because you want donors to understand that the work you do is important, but showing outcomes demonstrates the importance of your work and is more appealing to donors.
2. Connect your stories to those you serve.
Whatever story you are telling — about a new grant, or a new building — make it an outcome story by connecting it to a client. If you just received a grant for a new job training program, tell that program story from the perspective of someone who will benefit from it. A new grant or new building is positive news, but it needs to explain how it will benefit those you serve.
3. Refrain from featuring your higher-ups on the front your newsletter.
When you put your executive director or board president on the front page of your newsletter, you are telling readers that the most important people in your organization are the leaders. In outcome storytelling, the most important people are those you serve…your patients, clients, and students who depend on you. If your executive director requires front page real estate, ask him or her to tell an outcome story. Make sure every story you communicate strengthens the relationship between the donor and those you serve. Everyone else is secondary to that relationship.
4. Show outcomes, not overhead.
Nonprofits are regularly evaluated by the percentage of total expenses spent on overhead. Instead of focusing on how your organization spends money, focus on the outcomes you achieve. Your story should not be, "We kept overhead low," but instead, "We made a difference in our community."
5. If you absolutely have to tell process stories, put them on your website.
If you want to share the details of how your organization gets things done, your website is a great place for that, but make sure to lead with outcome stories. Post your outcome stories on Facebook, Twitter, or in your e-newsletter, and link readers to more in-depth process information on your website.
If you want to share your stories or learn how to tell stories that engage and excite your audiences, contact us!