Like many for-profit businesses that rely on strategic marketing campaigns to enhance conversion rates and ultimately sell more products and raise brand awareness, nonprofits rely on marketing tools and strategies to amplify their mission and goals. With strategic marketing, nonprofits have a better chance of raising more funds and making a bigger impact.
One of nonprofits' most powerful marketing tools is accurate data. While seemingly unrelated to marketing, accurate data has the power to solicit more donations, garner new supporters, and sustain the long-term success of an organization.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the importance of accurate data for strategic marketing practices—namely storytelling—and just how accurate measurements support success.
What does accurate data look like?
When people think about the term “data,” they usually picture big, complex numbers like ROI, yearly expenditure, and revenue. They imagine complicated graphs and perplexing metrics.
While accurate data can encompass measurements like ROI and revenue, accurate data can also refer to much more digestible metrics and data that can be equally impactful to the average reader (but less confusing).
Accurate data can include up-to-date figures on volunteer hours, monthly, quarterly, or annual fundraising efforts, beneficiary numbers, program outcomes, and more. These numbers—usually ones that fly right under the radar of busy nonprofits—are pretty easy to calculate and valuable to your charity’s outreach efforts.
Why is accurate data important for nonprofits?
Aside from the perhaps more obvious reasons, like the ability to assess program success, identify pain points, and improve internal practices, accurate data allows for strategic marketing opportunities.
In tandem with the power of accurate data as a method for effective marketing efforts, these metrics also provide a cost-effective investment. Namely, accurate data is an evergreen, inexpensive alternative to other forms of marketing. With limited marketing budgets (as is standard for most nonprofits), charities are tasked with being both effective and inexpensive.
In addition to the cost-benefit of accurate data, up-to-date metrics are a long-term strategy for marketing—even as years pass and data is deemed “old,” that historical data is a great opportunity for year-over-year comparison. Even the most outdated of material allows nonprofits a chance to showcase their progress and incremental change.
Most importantly, accurate data—a long-term, cost-effective marketing solution—allows you to tell a story about your brand.
How to use accurate data for strategic marketing
Accurate measurements about your nonprofit—from volunteer hours to program outcomes—can help your nonprofit convey and communicate its values, brand, mission, and goals, and create a deeper connection with your audiences.
Each of these benefits falls under the umbrella of storytelling—or the inbound marketing strategy that organizations use to communicate their goals and ideas in a compelling, emotive way. Storytelling allows any for-profit or nonprofit organization to build and enhance the community surrounding their work. From building trust to expressing gratitude, accurate data has the power to help you tell the story of your nonprofit.
5 ways accurate data allows for expert storytelling
Accurate data can inspire supporters to join your story
Accurate data doesn’t have to be boring or read like a textbook. If presented well, accurate data can encourage people to take action. For nonprofits, accurate data might inspire someone to donate, sign up to volunteer, or even become a partner.
Accurate data’s ability to show evidence of impact is central to inspiring action. While this might seem like a fairly straightforward concept, it’s often overlooked. Evidence of impact—or a charity's ability to show how much “need” there is, and how they’ve addressed it—makes supporters more likely to want to join in on the efforts.
For example, if your nonprofit funds after-school programs, you might show statistics around how much money it takes to fund one after-school program, how many children that program serves, and the percentage of children who achieve improvements in learning. When supporters can visualize the need and the progress that needs to be made, they’re more inclined to help your cause and give back.
In essence, accurate data encourages your supporters to be a part of your organization’s story.
Accurate data allows your supporters to trust your story
Though trust and transparency have always been fundamental to the success of nonprofit work, new research affirms that 69 percent of surveyed nonprofits indicate that the demand for transparency has increased over the past five years. With philanthropic trust at an all-time low, it’s more important now than ever for charities to prioritize transparency in their marketing practices.
When nonprofits share accurate data related to financial information, and program impacts,—you allow supporters a glimpse into the inner workings of your charity. Being forthright about metrics allows supporters to feel confident in contributing to your cause and aiding your impact.
Like any good story, transparency allows readers (or your audience, in this case) to feel comfortable, at ease and assured in your narrative. Accurate data allows you to tell a story that is true and honest.
Accurate data makes supporters feel like a valuable part of your story
Gratitude, like building trust through transparency, is one of the cornerstones of successful nonprofit marketing. Though personalized “thank you” notes and gifts are always thoughtful, nonprofits should harness the power of metrics to really express their thanks.
Accurate data can be used to communicate and showcase truly how big of an impact donors, volunteers, or partners have on your work. Instead of a vaguer expression of gratitude, show supporters exactly how they’ve helped—how many after-school programs did they fund? How many books did they buy? How many children experienced improved educational outcomes?
In this case, accurate data is the silver bullet of “show don’t tell.” Instead of telling donors what they mean to your mission, show them. When you do, you’ll be more likely to garner new supporters and retain current ones.
This kind of gratitude makes supporters feel central to your work and story.
Accurate data helps supporters contextualize and understand the story
Though the tech industry and the nonprofit serve different purposes, when it comes to effective storytelling, nonprofits could learn a thing or two from tech’s commitment to user-friendliness. Tech companies, for example, prioritize the needs of the user when designing the user experience (UX). Researchers identify pain points, design interfaces, and write copy to help aid the user in their understanding of the software or platform, and ultimately, help them arrive at the desired action or endpoint.
While UX may seem unrelated to nonprofit marketing, it’s not. Both tech companies and nonprofits want the user (or in a nonprofit’s case, supporter) to take a specific action by providing clear guidance and context. In the nonprofit world, charities want their “users” to connect with their mission and contribute.
Accurate data provides context. Instead of donors contributing blindly without knowing what their actions will accomplish, accurate data shows them just what their contributions accomplish. Context helps nonprofits avoid confusion or misunderstanding about the mission and goals of their organization. Instead, it gives them a clear understanding and indication of what their involvement in your organization will look like and accomplish.
Accurate data accounts for any plot holes in your story. Instead of having your supporters put the pieces together of your brand to understand it themselves, accurate data helps to fill in the gaps.
Accurate data makes donors feel in control of the story
Recently conducted research showed that donors were more likely to give their time than their money. For many nonprofit experts in the field, this new insight was a bit puzzling. Volunteering usually requires in-person efforts—from helping to run events to campaigning in local communities—and requires a time commitment, whereas donating, now easier than ever with digital-first software, can be done with just a click of a button.
Despite the idea that monetary donations are easier and less time-consuming (and therefore might be more appealing), donating time gives donors control. By volunteering, supporters can physically see their impact.
This research directly applies to accurate data for effective storytelling. When nonprofits showcase and convey exact measures of impact—and exactly what a donation supports—donors will feel much more in control, making them more likely to contribute.
Where to showcase accurate data for expert storytelling
Now that we’ve covered exactly how accurate data can communicate the story of your organization—making clear metrics a strategic tool for inbound marketing—we’ll dive into exactly how and where you can communicate these numbers.
Though every nonprofit is different, one of the best ways to communicate your organization’s story is through digital reporting. As more and more charities move away from snail mail and paper newsletters and brochures, it’s becoming increasingly important to go green and engage with supporters where they’re spending most of their time—online. Plus, by using intuitive, scalable software, nonprofits can design their data with interactive graphs, eye-catching designs (to make digital reports scannable), and more. By using such software, charities allow their information to be much more accessible and easier to grasp—deepening the connection between supporters and your charity.
Creating an annual report is a pretty standard practice for most nonprofits. This “year in review” shows your communities—volunteers, partners, donors, and more—exactly how your year went. From including a chairman’s letter to showcasing a list of initiatives and programs, the annual report is the ideal time to incorporate storytelling tactics.
Most importantly, it’s a great place to show off your accurate data. Through easy-to-understand pie charts and infographics, readers will easily ascertain the progress and pitfalls of any given year without having to wade through complex statistics.
Plus, an annual report is a great place to show off volunteer data, and donor data, and build a community around the story of your organization.
Like an annual report, an impact report shows a snapshot of the impact of any given program or initiative. Instead of encapsulating an entire year's worth of information, an impact report is more of a bite-sized review. Like annual reports though—which can be packed with information—it’s important that your story shines through.
By sending donors and other stakeholders an impact report full of accurate data, you’re giving them a greater sense of control. They’ll be able to immediately see how their contributions helped to create impact through one of your programs or initiatives.
One of the best ways to engage board members is through a compelling board report. Like any other supporter or donor, Board members want to feel in control, engaged, and inspired to take action.
A board report—full of information about the charity—is the ideal place to showcase accurate data. Accurate measurements will allow your board to feel more connected to your mission, more familiar with your story and core values and helps to retain their membership.
Thought leadership reports
Thought leadership reports are another form of strategic content marketing. Though e-newsletters and social media are great places to showcase accurate data, thought leadership reports help develop a more comprehensive and credible voice around your story and brand.
Successful thought leaders have done their research and know their numbers. When it comes to representing the work of a singular nonprofit or a collection of organizations, nonprofit leaders should utilize accurate metrics to convey expertise and competency. Instead of offering vague insights, it’s crucial to showcase actual measurements as evidence.
Though measuring and collecting accurate data can feel like a huge undertaking, there are plenty of software solutions that take the stress out of the process. Plus, pulling together all of your stats—as we covered—is a worthy investment.