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

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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280 characters on Twitter

In case you missed it, Twitter started to roll-out its 280 character limit to all users today. Personally I think it is a sad day and mourn the opportunity that everyone had to get a message across clearly and concisely in 140. Of course there is no reason why you now have to use the full 280. Readers still have short attention spans so being clear and concise still wins in my book.

Many took to the platform, responding quickly and creatively to mark the change by spreading important messages using their first #280Character tweets. Here are some examples taken from my #280Characters Moment.

Samaritans Ireland reminded us what they do. Haven House Children’s Hospice shared their impact in 2016/17.

Samaritans Ireland

Mental Health Foundation shared stats about mental health (as well as an image asking for donations). Crisis simply repeated their pledge to end homelessness.

Mental Health Foundation

Crisis - 'end homelessness'

Scotland Fire and Rescue used it as a chance to share some important numbers.

Scot Fire and Rescue

Others like Breast Cancer Care, the Met Office and Rethink Mental Illness used just emojis. (See also this from the Cookie Monster!)

BCC use emojis to make a big pink ribbon

Some used the extra space to say thank you. Oxfam used a video and RNLI a simple thanks.

Oxfam's thank you video

Book Trust started a conversation about favourite characters (nice tie-in!) and got lots of replies.

Books Trust

Some just went mad with the extra space! See GiveBlood NHS, Age UK Lambeth and the Science Museum. Plus Macmillan’s cake tweet and London Ambulance’s nee-naws (currently clocking up 15,000 likes and a nee-naw-off with other emergency service accounts!)

GiveBlood NHS, Science Museum and Age UK Lambeth repeat their messages over and over!

Well done to all who reacted so quickly in such brilliant ways!

Does your comms / social media strategy allow you the space to be reactive and creative?

See the full collection including tweets from museums and heritage organisations in my #280Characters Moment.

See also How 280 twitter characters could benefit comms people by Kerry-Lynne Pyke of Macmillan Cancer on comms2point0  with notes about how the increase should benefit charities who tweet in English and Welsh.

Did you spot any other good examples? Do you have a story to tell about your reactive comms? Please share in the comments.

January’s charity content highlights

Come out from underneath your desk / duvet and catch up with some of the latest creative charity content.

L-R Dave the Parkinsons Worm, contactless giving Zurich Insurance post, Street Support video, National Lottery gif

Innovation

Cancer Research are continuing their trend of using World Cancer Day (this Saturday – 4 February) to launch new uses for contactless fundraising. Ten ‘smart benches’ across two London boroughs will take £2 donations.

Are you planning to look in to contactless fundraising in 2017? NSPCC recently announced impressive results of their contactless fundraising and many other organisations are using it too. I gathered some examples of contactless giving in my blog post for Zurich Insurance and spoke to Haven House Children’s Hospice who are running trials at the moment.

Not sure what the technical term for this is but the National Lottery did a very smart bit of Twittering by launching this 7second video and inviting people to RT it ‘for a surprise’. The surprise was a personalised video, with the RTers’ Twitter profile image in a gold frame, with the words ‘National Treasure’ underneath. Nice! This was similar to a thanks reply from Save the Children I got in December.

National Lottery video of interesting doors / walls

Today it is Time to Talk Day (#timetotalk). Why not use Time to Change’s template to make your own graphic?

Time to Change's interactive graphic maker

Good reads

If you get a moment, don’t forget to fill in the Charity Digital Skills Survey which is open until 17 February.

And follow #smex17 on Monday if you are not going to the Social Media Exchange in person.

Re-brands / new websites / charity content

Action for Children's error message - cheeky boy with magnifying glass

To brighten your day

Meme of badly drawn pictures 'pasted' on top of a video of Donald Trump's policy signings

What have you seen?

What have been your charity content highlights from January? Do share! I’d love to hear from you.

5 digital comms tips for hospices

Hospices are amazing places but often their digital content is missing something. Websites, email and social media tend to be dominated by their excellent community fundraising rather than telling the story of what they do and making an ask. I have been working on a few projects with hospices recently. Here are some great examples and my top tips for hospice comms.

1. Set the tone

A strong and clear strapline or prominent sentence can help set the scene on your homepage or more widely across your site and social media. In a few words you can warmly bring people in, explain what you do and set the tone for your hospice. (Like this example from Severn Hospice – the statement “Behind every family we help is a huge caring team and hundreds of kind supporters who make it all possible” appears prominently on every page of their website.)

Severn Hospice - "Behind every family we help is a huge caring team and hundreds of kind supporters who make it all possible"

Statements like this can be difficult to write as each word and the tone of voice counts. Look at what other hospices do to get some inspiration (such as the example from Peace Hospice Care below). Then brainstorm key words and phrases that you want to use. Test out your draft statements with colleagues and the people you support to get some feedback. Once finalised, you can use this statement in lots of different ways across your different channels.

Peace Hospice statement: Peace Hospice Care offers excellent all-round care for people across South West Hertfordshire with a life limiting illness

2. Show what you do

Hospices mainly use social media to drum up supporters for events and fundraising activities. Don’t miss the chance to use it to show the detail of what you do. Short statements, graphics and photos showing your work can be very effective as these two tweets from Haven House Children’s Hospice show.

2 tweets from Haven House Children's Hospice showing their work

And use social media to dispel general myths about hospices (as shown in this tweet from Sue Ryder).

Sue Ryder tweet

Do you have a ‘why support us’ page in your fundraising section? Supporters may need more persuading than a ‘please donate’ ask and information in your ‘about us’ section might be tailored for friends, family and carers rather than new supporters. A ‘why support us’ page can give you a space to explain what you do and how much it costs. Here is a good  example from St Joseph’s Hospice.

3. Tell a story

How do you tell the story of the people you support and the wider story of your organisation? Case studies are widely used but often feel quite formulaic. Getting people to read a carefully crafted but devastating story in 800 words can be hard. About us pages covering your history and founder can also be very dry.

Reframe your case studies as stories written by the subject (like Norma’s story from Severn Hospice or Margaret’s story from Hospice in the Weald). These sound more authentic and engaging. You could still write the story yourself based on what they have told you but write it in their voice and with their signoff.

Many charities invite their users to write about their experience. For example, the mental health charity Mind have blog posts written by users. Their ‘in our own words’ section includes users’ #mentalhealthselfies and #drawmylife videos. They have produced comprehensive guidelines to help people write for them.

Many of the people you support will be too ill to share their story and it won’t be appropriate to ask. Are there other ways you can tell a story? Could your volunteers, nurses or care staff contribute? Could you tell a story from the perspective of a mascot or piece of equipment (such as a teddy bear, bench in the garden or the tea machine)? Being creative can engage readers and lighten the tone (as these tweets from Arthur Rank Hospice show).

Arthur Rank Hospice tweets showing Arthur Bear in action

Your stories should end with an ask (eg ‘please help us to help people like Steve’) or at least a link to ‘find out more about our services’. This is so often overlooked. People reading an emotional story may want to do something to help. Make it easy for them or nudge them to do so. If it doesn’t feel right, test it out for a month or so. If it doesn’t work, take it off or change the wording.

See more about: Storytelling.

4. Use photos

Photos are key to a good story. They invite the reader in and give an indication of what the story will be about. Poor quality or unclear photos can put off a reader. Stock photos of healthcare can stick out like a sore thumb. Photos of your own setting, staff and patients are much more authentic and help bring your organisation to life. What is your housestyle for photos?

Photos can be shocking, moving or funny in the right context. They don’t have to be professionally taken but should tell a story. These lovely images from an Acorn’s Hospice story in a local paper are family-taken pictures.

Acorn's Hospice tweet - Alexis's story

Comment boards can be a very effective way of telling a story or getting a message across. They can be quick and easy to do. Try a simple statement such as these examples from Acorn’s Hospice (I give Acorns…. / Acorns gives me).

Acorn's gives me / I give Acorn's comment boards

Or more emotional like St Joseph’s “I want to be remembered for….” pictures. (NB St Joseph’s have lots of beautiful photos on their website.)

St Joseph's photo of a man holding a sign saying "I wan to be remembered for..."

5. Use video

Video is perhaps the most impactful tool you can use. A 2minute film showing what you do can be more effective than pages and pages of written content. Think about the stories you can tell through film. What are the key messages you want to get across? Who is the audience for your film? What do you want to persuade them to do after watching? How can you use video alongside your other communications?

Video has the potential to show very moving stories. Some hospice stories have been very hard-hitting. It can be risky to produce a film which is very upsetting as you can risk alienating your audience and community. Planning and editing a video should involve lots of questions about the sensitivities of the subject and viewer.

There are lots of inspiring examples to look at to help you think about how you could use video. I love this film of volunteer Elaine talking about her experience of Hospice in the Weald.

Elaine's story of volunteering for 17 years

This video from Haven House Children’s Hospice is upsetting but very powerful. It has had over 950 views. And this film from Princess Alice Hospice is a simple slideshow of photos showing what they do.

There are lots of practical tips about video in this post by Jude Habib: Bring your story to life through video. Find out more about YouTube’s charity help including how to apply overlays and donate buttons.

Other tips

  • Do you include JustTextGiving details on your donation page? Willowbrook Hospice’s donation page starts with the SMS details, then list other methods including charity shop donations.
  • What does your housestyle say about how you talk about death and dying? What terminology is appropriate for your organisation and audience? Do you talk about it in a clear way or skirt around the topic? Do you use euphemisms? Is this the language used by your audience? Do you use a different style for different channels?
  • Are you using terminology which alienates your audience? Are you sure that everyone knows what terms like palliative care, multi-professional teams or even life-limiting conditions mean?
  • Storify can be a powerful way to document an event or your work around a particular theme. See: Content curation.
  • Keep up with what other hospices are doing. Watching out for new fundraising methods will give you new ideas. For example, St Joseph’s have a sponsor a nurse programme is very well put together and St Helena Hospice run a big-bucket-a-thon.

Share your tips

What tips or examples would you add? I’d love to hear about your experience. What works well for you? What did you try and then scrap? Please share using the comments box below.

Can I help?

I help charities and non-profits with their content. Whether you are looking for training for the team, copywriting or some input into your content strategy, please get in touch.

See also Legacy Fundraising – tips for persuasive and engaging web copy.