Moving Beyond Data: The Value of Storytelling
Quantifying the work of nonprofits organizations through data has been a driving force behind program evaluation and impact. But in order to have a comprehensive and robust examination of our work we have to understand the human element of our work; how do we transform lives. Through storytelling we can capture how are constituents feel about our mission, programs and organization in a direct and personal way; providing context for the data that we use to evaluate our success.
What Is Storytelling
While storytelling comes in many forms (program participant’s perspectives, quotes from the organization’s constituents, a day in the life of program participant or constituent, etc.) the uniting thread throughout various approaches is that this form of expression allows for authentic voices to be heard. These are compelling stories and antidotes that enables the reading/listener to have direct insight into the life and circumstances of the constituent. For even greater impact photos and videos should run as a parallel to any printed versions of the story. Additionally, if your organization is hosting a presentation or forum, storytelling can be a powerful way of getting your audience emotionally engaged with your work.
Phyllis Harris, Executive Director, The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, telling her story
When asking constituents to tell their story, you should guide them to make sure that their presentation is:
- Thematic (i.e. empowerment, transformation, etc.)
- Textured with Detail
- Entertaining, Inspiring and Potentially Surprising
- Brief and Concise
In additional to print resources, Foundation Center occasionally holds courses related to storytelling.
Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising
Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make A Difference
John Capecci and Timothy Cage
Storytelling as Best Practice: How Stories Strengthen Your Organization, Engage Your Audience, and Advance Your Mission
Should you be interested in learning more about how storytelling can provide a compelling way to express your impact, please do not hesitate to contact Foundation Center Cleveland.
As always, be focused on knowledge, innovation and impact!
John Patrick Bailey, Ph.D.