Using digital to bring your impact to life

Sharing details of your impact shouldn’t just be hidden away in a report for funders or annual review. Use your digital comms to bring your impact to life.

Share and celebrate the difference you have made. Build trust and transparency. Showcase the achievements of your stakeholders, volunteers and staff. The sector and donors need a morale boost – do it with impact reporting. Here are some creative ways to do it.

Sign: how would you rate your ticket barrier experience today?' in a train station - 4 button choices

Why communicate impact?

As busy organisations doing important work, it is natural to always be looking forward to the next task, the next project, the next crisis. But taking time to review what worked well and the difference made is vital. And showing this impact is key to communicate what it is that you actually do. This builds and connects with supporters and partners. This builds trust.

Put simply impact is achievements plotted against your vision and goals. It can be an annual overview or done per project or activity.

Done well, impact is shown through more than just statistics, it brings out the experience and stories to bring it to life.

Digital impact reporting can be low-cost and allows you to be more creative. There are lots of different methods you can use. This post looks at some of them

Impact reports

Many organisations produce an impact report. It might be called an annual review or an annual report. It may be printed and handed out to important people. It may be sitting in boxes in the corner of your office right now! Maybe it has been turned into a PDF and uploaded to your website.

Do you know how many people read it? What impact does the impact report have? Is it driving donations? Is it changing the minds of decision-makers? How much time (and stress) does it take to gather all the data and stories of your year and craft it into one document?

Given all the work involved, the document should be working really hard for you. I have seen lots of ‘Our impact’ pages which are just lists of links to old reports.

List of links on a page: impactReport17 / impactReport16 / ImpactReport15 etc

No-one wants to click on these links unless they have to!

Instead bring your impact report to life. If you don’t have the space or time to do more, at a bare minimum the page linking to your report should be engaging. What are the highlights from the report? What were the key achievements? Do you have a strong image? The page needs to whet people’s appetites or if you have more than one report, help them find the information they are looking for without having to mine for it.

For example, look at the highlights from London Community Foundation’s projects and St Mary’s Secret Garden’s page about impact.

Online impact reports

Many organisations are investing in online impact reports. For example see the Children’s Society Impact Report 15-16 which includes statistics, maps, stories and videos and Crisis’ Impact Report 16-17.

Teenage Cancer Trusts’ report is a year in the life of the organisation. The web page version picks out some of the key information from the report (I like the ‘what we said we’d do’ and ‘what we did’ lists) and links to a download of the print version and a page-turning view via ISSUU.

Cover of the Teenage Cancer Trust report - 365 days in the life of the organisation

These are clearly expensive bits of content but they give value for these organisations. If done right, snazzy reports work harder to encourage people to interact with this information, especially if they are well promoted and linked to (more on this later). They should of course also meet accessibility guidelines so everyone can access them. Interactive pages with pop-up text or video can be especially problematic for people using screen readers or viewing on mobile.

But here is an insight into the future. On Street League’s annual report page there is a note which says “Is our annual report already out of date? See how we are doing now” linking to a live interactive dashboard of their data. They say “We are committed to transparency and have developed this online tool so you can see exactly how we’re doing throughout the year. You can see exactly how many young people we have been able to support, as well as those we haven’t been able to help and why that is.” Very impressive!

Screenshot of live data - pie charts and maps

Different types of reports

Reports don’t have to follow a standard format. What is your audience interested in? How can you present your information in a way which is engaging or surprising or tells a story in a different way?

The British Heart Foundation produce timelines of research done on particular heart conditions.

Haven House Children’s Hospice produce an emoji year in review to accompany their standard annual report.

Haven House Children's Hospice emoji review which uses graphics to illustrate their impact stats

Using the content from your report

Don’t let your report just sit on the shelf. Help drive traffic to it. Use the source material on an ongoing basis.

Why not schedule snippets from the report, such as a story or statistic. Link to the report or to some other content for more information. Use a photo or graphic or video to make it eye catching. Write blog posts. Share content at weekends and in the evening. Use the report to generate conversation.

For example, Teenage Cancer Trust shared a gif of some headline stats and link to their annual review.

Bowel Cancer UK shared an infographic via Twitter for #ThursdayThoughts.

infographic from Bowel Cancer UK

Reach Volunteering have taken the stats from their report and used Flourish to make them more interactive.

Creative ways to communicate impact

Take your impact reporting to the next level by gathering and sharing data and stories throughout the year in a creative way.

Maps / infographics / emojis / images

Share your impact in an eye-catching way with bold graphics. Graphics can illustrate data or a story. For example look at this journey of a young person from Outward Bound Trust’s Social Impact Report illustrating the impact of their work.

Maps are a good way to show volume or spread of your work. This example from BBC Children in Need uses a yellow map of the country with Pudsey-shaped pins to show projects they have supported.

Children in Need map using Pudsey shaped pins on a map of the UK showing the location of projects

This interactive map from Care International UK shows their work across the world.

How are you showing your impact to the people who visit your office or centre? This poster on the wall of Dogs Trust Canterbury shows visitors how many dogs have been rehomed this year. It works well on social media too.

Poster showing pawprints counting up the number of dogs rehomed by Dogs Trust Canterbury in 2018

For more on this see > how to illustrate data and stats on social media

Curation and takeovers

Let your team share insights from their work to bring their impact to life. Some stories of the behind the scenes activities can help people realise the impact of what you do.

Twitter / Instagram takeovers are well used by organisations. This is when a trusted person is given the keys to the ‘corporate’ account for a day or longer and invited to share their story. Lankelly Chase do this every Friday allowing frontline staff to show us what their day involves. They preserve them as Twitter Moments and on Storify (NB still due to be shut down on 16 May 2018) so they can be re-shared or used in different ways.

Screenshot of storify's of the people who have done friday takeovers for Lankelly Chase

Takeovers also work well for a particular event or message. For example, look at this Moment from Marie Curie made up of tweets following a nurse doing a night shift over the night when the clocks go back. They used this to remind supporters about the work done by nurses.

For more on takeovers see > how to share lived experiences using #rocur or Twitter takeovers

Storytelling

Case studies are often included in funding application forms alongside impact stats to bring an issue or intervention to life. This can be done digitally too

For example, see Yavonne’s story from the The Parent House. The page includes a beautiful photograph and a quote from Yvonne followed by a case study about her (rather than in her own words).

Contrast this with the no frills story following the donation of a tin of tomatoes to Cardiff Foodbank showing behind the scenes and putting a single donation in the context of all the others.

Still from Foodbank video

Or a handwritten note shared with Colchester Foodbank which shares some of the personal impact of the service to one person.

Handwritten note of thanks to Colchester Foodbank

These stories are authentic and engaging.

Video

Add a little magic. Videos don’t have to be expensive or worthy to tell your story. Show the types of things you fund or teach or love, to illustrate your work. For example, I love this video from Children in Need about the funding they give to science education projects.

Video can be used to show the impact you make on one person. This story from Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity shares the story of Emily’s mum and the support she received from the charity.

Video can also allow beneficiaries to speak directly, saying what impact the charity has had. For example, look at this video from educational charity Hackney Pirates.

Find a hook

Finally, think about the hooks you can use to share your impact. This could be #GivingTuesday, a topical hashtag, awareness day or anniversary / event.

4 examples of how charities show their impact on social using hashtags

Top tips

Spring clean your impact content today:

  • Is your ‘Our impact’ page or equivalent easy to find in your website’s navigation? Is it integrated within your website with links from fundraising pages? Is it better than just a list of links?
  • Are your PDF links labelled well? This is really important for accessibility, people using mobiles and everyone! Do it like this – Impact report 2016-17 (PDF) including (PDF) in the link text. NB make sure your PDFs are tagged for accessibility too. Otherwise a PDF is basically a photo of text and impossible for someone to read with a screen reader.
  • Do you really need 10 years worth of reports on your website? Look at the Analytics to see if anyone is actually opening them.
  • When was the last time you talked about impact on social? How did this perform? How could you do it better?
  • Is the process for collecting impact data efficient? Take a look at Impact Management Programme for some useful resources.
  • Experiment with free tools to help you produce eye-catching graphics. Try Canva, ISSUU, biteable or Flourish.

Remember: Impact is for life – not just for a report.

Digital brings an opportunity to be creative and bring your organisation’s impact to life. Use your reporting to connect with supporters, funders and the community.

Seen any great examples?

Have you seen or worked on innovative impact reporting? Or does your organisation approach impact in a different way? Or is reporting just not important? I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments.

There are lots more examples and tips from this Charity Comms seminar in September 2017.

[A shorter version of this post was shared via the Just Giving blog – 5 creative ways to bring your charity’s impact to life]

Can I help?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital copywriting, content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. Can I help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection?

This post was based on a workshop session I delivered at Superhighways Impact Aloud conference in November 2017.

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3 thoughts on “Using digital to bring your impact to life

  1. Pingback: 3 ways to start your digital content spring clean

  2. Pingback: 3 ways to start your digital content spring clean

  3. Pingback: Reflecting on the Charity Meetup - Impact Matters event - Morello Marketing

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