by Briana Commins
Donors are demanding more information about how their dollars are spent than ever. Clear and succinct reporting from non-profits that describe the significant economic, societal, or environmental benefits of their research, outreach, or projects is crucial. Moreover, Charity Navigator is evolving its assessment metrics to put a focus on impact in early 2016. As part of my work at Aquarium of the Bay, Charity Navigator recently sent me a four-page form requesting information about The Bay Institute Aquarium Foundation’s Rivers and Delta program, asking a number of questions on how we measure programmatic success and impact. While the answers to these questions are important, I wonder if the average donor would benefit from such bland statistics.
In my mind, the best and most effective way to communicate impact is to tell a story that demonstrates the unique value that your organization brings to the community. Tell a narrative about how you do the work you do, why you fund those you fund, and what changes are happening as a result of your investments. The Alaska Sea Grant requires applicants to consider the “4 R’s…Relevance, Response, Results, and Recap” when crafting an impact story. This provides structural guidance while you are fleshing out the story content. Remember: a good impact story is not a catalog of every issue your organization supports or a fact sheet of results. Stories should be easy to read and compelling. They should introduce a specific problem and demonstrate how your organization can help to solve the problem in a way that positively impacts the community. Good photos that show you in action (such as the one below) help.
After you have developed a draft, make sure to add a descriptive title, a quote from someone involved in the story, and a brief description of your organization. Obtaining a quote that is perfectly aligned with your story can be tricky, so I suggest writing the quote and emailing it to the individual to approve or revise. I used this method for collecting quotes for The Bay Institute Aquarium Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report. Alex Hooker, Program Associate at S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation approved the following quote that aligns perfectly with content of the report and successfully demonstrates our organization’s significance and benefit to the community:
“Aquarium of the Bay is a recognized leader in watershed education, providing an array of programs that inspire youth to explore the world around them. By partnering with local public schools and aligning programs with the new state standards, the Aquarium is a model for cutting-edge curriculum for students—in San Francisco and beyond. The Foundation is proud to support the innovative work at the Aquarium of the Bay.”
–Alex C. Hooker, Program Associate at S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
For more information on writing for your non-profit, consider visiting Foundation Center Online or Northern California Grantmakers for professional development seminars and really interesting articles!