Daily money

How NPOs can turn data into stories that motivate donors

Amid an uncertain economic outlook, it’s more important than ever for non-profit organisations (NPOs) to increase engagement efforts, nurture major donors, and find new and creative ways to connect with potential donors.

Research suggests that donors want NPOs to focus on making a compelling case of extraordinary need. To do this, many leading organisations leverage NPO storytelling to communicate with existing and potential donors, make emotional connections, strengthen donor relationships, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their mission.

Telling your story the right way makes all the difference when it comes to securing the funding you need or falling short of your goals. This article shares best practices that can help you bring your NPO’s story to life.

First, know your impact

This might seem obvious, but you need to know what you want to achieve, the impact you want to make, and the outcomes you’re working towards.

Not only will this help you ensure that your income sources align with your vision, but it will also give your organisation, employees, and volunteers focus and direction, helping you work smarter with the available resources.

Once you know the impact you want to make, you need to help your donors connect with it on an emotional level. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Help donors connect emotionally with your mission

Donors need to connect with and understand your vision, and the best way to do this is to tell stories that demonstrate your impact.

Everything should work together and draw your donors into a deeper connection with your mission. Finding the best way to communicate your priorities, and impact is critical to telling your story well.

Tips for powerful storytelling:

  • Build and share your organisation’s most powerful story. Personal stories deliver the most impact because it’s easier for donors to identify with your cause on an individual level.
  • Images resonate immediately on an emotional level. Use powerful images that grab attention and highlight your mission, such as pictures of the people you help, charts showing the number of meals served, or the work that goes on behind the scenes, such as staff and volunteers teaming up to plant trees or build houses.
  • Include a short, thoughtful, and compelling tagline.
  • Include data and metrics that reflect the urgency of your mission.
  • Invite donors to join the mission.
  • Use interactive content to encourage engagement, such as polls or asking donors to share their stories.

Support your story with data and metrics

Once you’ve identified an emotional story to tell, strengthen it with data and metrics.

Non-profits must improve their ability to tell their stories to encourage more giving by learning to identify, track, and measure performance indicators that are directly related to mission impact. Donors want to know that you’re getting more for their money than other organisations. They also want to be drawn into your story, to care about the people and values you represent.

Start by defining the metrics that best support your mission and build them into your story.

For example, if you run an animal shelter, you might want to report on the number of animals rescued, the number of animals adopted, and the cost per animal per day. If you run a soup kitchen, you might measure the number of meals served per day, cost per meal, and the demographics of people that need help.

Tracking and measuring metrics allows you to be more transparent while also providing the proof and accountability that donors expect. After all, something not measured is not done. By measuring your impact, you can show that what you’re doing has made a big enough difference over the past six to 12 months compared to what might – or might not – have happened if your NPO hadn’t been doing anything.

It is, therefore, critical to be able to review and highlight your impact through accurate reporting because, without sufficient impact, it is unlikely that you will be able to sustain the income generation required to fund your activities.

Financial transparency: Leverage tech for mission impact

Strong financial governance is essential to running an effective non-profit, charity, or faith-based organisation. Donors want to know that their money is going where you say it’s going, so it’s important that you not only communicate your priorities and demonstrate your progress but also that you prove it.

Non-profit organisations typically receive funding from a variety of sources. This, along with increased compliance regulations, makes transparency and accountability crucial when it comes to funds management. It also necessitates system-wide tracking and visibility across various key segments or identifiers. These requirements are best met through a non-profit or fund accounting system that provides complete fund tracking, efficient operational processing, timely reporting, and a comprehensive audit trail.

Consider investing in fundraising infrastructure, such as donor databases and donor management software, as well as cloud accounting and financial management solutions that can help you demonstrate financial performance, efficiency, and outcomes.

Having a real-time cloud financial management solution like Sage Intacct makes it easy to collect the metrics needed to tell your donors a compelling story with data. Performance data and metrics support your story by showing impact, accountability, and a laser focus on mission success.

Sage Intacct delivers real-time insights into your mission’s impact. It helps you track the data and metrics that matter most ­– from financial performance to outcomes and impact – in real-time. Having this information at your fingertips makes it easier to present a compelling story to your donors.

Moreover, role-based dashboards give stakeholders access to key performance indicators, outcome metrics, and scorecards relevant to their programmes and responsibilities. For example, the CFO Dashboard can be customised to display essential performance metrics for financial executives, such as average donation or cost per meal served, making it easier to keep costs under control, benchmark financial health and sustainability, and provide instant actionable insight to key stakeholders. This allows them to develop and execute strategies more effectively and helps align processes more closely to the organisation’s objectives.

Get smart with your marketing

The best place to raise additional funds is through your existing donor base. Staying in touch with your donors, communicating your impact, and devoting more time and effort to nurturing relationships with key donors can help ensure that your organisation is at the forefront of their minds when they budget for charitable contributions.

Donors care deeply about supporting organisations that reflect their values and priorities, and they will want to see evidence of sound financial management and mission impact. This is why most donors research organisations before giving ­– and why transparency and communication are crucial to earning their trust.

When researching NPOs, donors might consider overall efficiency, philanthropic impact, general reputation, operating costs, mission and services, executive salaries, and funding sources.

It’s important that your messaging and branding form the core of your marketing strategy and that your website, social media channels, and communications reflect your brand and mission.

Equally important is understanding where your money comes from so that you can tailor your marketing activities to different audiences and create communication plans that put you in the best position to connect with funders. For example, while young people might be active on social media, older generations might prefer a monthly newsletter.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for new ways to strengthen relationships with your donor base, it’s time to focus on NPO storytelling to improve brand, communication, and donor engagement.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for creating an emotional connection between your NPO’s cause and your audience. As a result, they are more likely to take action, such as donating, volunteering, or spreading the word.

Data provides a better understanding of your organisation and mission and can take your NPO storytelling to the next level.

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