4 Steps for Illustrating a Compelling Impact Story

As we approach the beginning of a new year, it is an opportune time to reflect on what we have accomplished this year and what we would like to do differently in the future. In my book Impact and Excellence: Data-Driven Strategies for Aligning Mission, Culture and Performance in Nonprofit and Government Organizations, I discuss in depth how an organization’s success is driven by its ability to accurately gather and interpret data in order to share the organization’s impact story in a compelling manner.

In many government and non-profit organizations, a grant writer or program officer is often responsible for producing a report for a funder or executive committee that summarizes the results of program data. Traditionally, most social-sector organizations have failed to move beyond collecting and sharing output data in order share what really matters—outcomes and impact. In addition, after an initial review, the information is typically filed away and forgotten until the next performance report is distributed. On the other hand, research shows that organizations who are able to consistently collect and use data to share a compelling impact story are able to serve more clients, improve operations, increase revenues, and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders.

Step 1: Establish Measures to Determine Success

Every government and non-profit organization that embraces a high-performance measurement culture should collect three types of data: what was done (outputs), how well it was done (quality), and how participants are better off (outcomes). Moving from simply collecting outputs, to collecting quality and outcomes data can catapult the social-sector organization to a new level of success. Clearly communicated outcomes further enhance the potential these organizations have to attract new donors, increase public awareness, and shape positive attitudes toward their causes.

Step 2: Humanize the Data

Many organizations make the mistake of presenting data in a manner that fails to inspire action. They either present too much information or present it in a fashion that is too complicated or too technical. It is important that information communicated to stakeholders is concrete and detailed, increasing the likelihood that it will be fully digested and remembered by those who consume it. Sharing stories as well as data allows decision makers to humanize the information, which may result in further engagement and action on the part of recipients.

Step 3: Communicate Return on Investment

Federal, state, or local legislatures, corporate and government grant makers, foundations, private donors, and customers must make sound decisions about stewardship of funds. All funders are interested in investing their resources in services that do the most good and have the greatest impact on the things they value most. Organizations that translate outcomes into return on investment are the most attractive to funders because they communicate specifically what a donor’s financial contribution provides. By demonstrating impact to funders, these organizations differentiate themselves from those with parallel services who are competing for the same funds.

Step 4: Incorporate Data into Communication Strategies

In order to create a compelling impact story, organizations must communicate fully and often. These organizations use data to powerfully illustrate the organization’s authentic success and cast a compelling vision—one that inspires belief in the organization’s ability to fulfill the promise of its stated mission.

High-impact organizations do not rely on a single type of communication. Instead, they strategically weave data into the fabric of enterprise-wide key messages. Leaders of the most effective organizations share the story of the organization’s impact and excellence in a variety of ways, embracing creative approaches and tapping various mediums for communicating with stakeholders.


If an organization establishes the right outcomes and consistently collects data, discovering and communicating the organization’s impact and return on investment is a relatively easy task. SureImpact is a data collection and reporting platform that connects backbone organizations, partners, funders, collaborators, grant managers, and evaluators with real-time impact data. The platform was built for the social sector by people who have been working in the government and non-profit sectors, as well as with collective impact initiatives for more than 20 years and have a deep understanding of the unique needs of social-sector organizations and their funders.

To learn more about how SureImpact can provide the real-time data you need to create a compelling impact story, contact us today.