Data Gets You Funding, Part 3
3 Steps for Demonstrating Impact to Funders
Your organization is phenomenal. You know it. But do funders? Demonstrating impact is all about making sure others see what you already know to be true about the good work you’re doing.
So how can you demonstrate impact with data—in a way that even those outside your organization can see just how important and effective the work is that you’re doing. It can seem like a tall order. After all, you know firsthand how the work that you and your staff are doing changes lives, changes organizations, changes the world. But you’ll need more than your own pride and joy at what you’ve created to convince others to get start funding and supporting your work in a significant way.
We have learned over the years how to take the mystery out of demonstrating both the depth and breadth of your program or organization’s impact. It comes down to three key ideas.
- Change Over Time. The first key to making sure that you’re demonstrating impact is to capture change over time. We can’t simply measure where people are at the end of a program or event; we have to know where they started. If we don’t know where they started, it’s almost impossible to measure the specific ways your organization impacted them. Intake forms and surveys are an important, and easy-to-implement step in this process.
- Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. We trust that you’re the only organization doing exactly what you do. But in all likelihood, others people and companies have come before that had similar goals, even if the execution was different. Don’t reinvent the wheel: if your program is designed to increase religious engagement across generations, you might already know of another organizations or studies tackling or tracking that question in a different way than you. Look at their outcomes and draw out the connections your organization makes at a more particular level. Doing this not only saves you time, effort and money, but also communicates how well you know your work within a wider conversation.
- Tell the Story. Data is nothing without communication. It should be accessible, not impossible to interpret. Figuring out how to tell the story of your program’s impact is vital. Along with tables and graphs, you’ll want graphics that reflect your brand, video(s), and, maybe most importantly—narrative. Make sure your data are embedded into a larger story that effectively communicates impact in a predictable and accessible structure. You may one to highlight the particular story of one individual, an “ideal” candidate or model user of your program. Relying on step 1 from these tips, you’ll want to show a before and after in narrative form: how and what they struggled with, the way your program is designed to meet their need, and how that individual has been impacted positively since working with you. Personal stories are always simple and powerful.
At Springtide, we’ve honed this process of demonstrating impact, because we’ve seen it work. Not just with the clients we serve, but also with our own research. Look through our reports, and you’ll see a similar model to the one above. We rely on experts and storytelling to help us document how young people’s religious lives are changing. We ask where they started and where they’re going, and we keep asking them questions, tweaking our process along the way to make sure it’s effective.
You can easily implement these same tactics in your own organization—and if you need any help doing so, don’t hesitate to be in touch.
Josh Packard, PhD, is the Executive Director of Springtide Research Institute