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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Saying thank you on #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday started in the UK in 2014. Charities use it in all sorts of different ways. Some ask for money or time. Others ask for action. (See Do something good this Giving Tuesday by Kirsty Marrins for some examples).

Others just say thank you. Here are some of the creative and lovely thank you’s I have seen today.

Videos

Mind’s staff read out messages from people who have been helped by Mind. At the end it says ‘We can’t thank you enough for helping us to give people a place to turn and a way forward’.

Mind's staff reading out thank you messages

The Trussell Trust have been tweeting very short thank you messages covering all aspects of how people support them. There is one long one (37s!) on YouTube.

Trussell Trust's staff hold up thank you signs

The Donkey Sanctuary said thank you to their supporters with lots of lovely pictures of donkeys.

Video of still photos of donkeys

Images

War Child UK shared a thank you photo with children holding up letters and waving.

Children hold up letters spelling out 'Thank You'

Refugee Action shared ‘thanks to you’ numbers showing how many people they had been able to help.

Refugee Action - 'this year, you've helped us to...

Marie Curie have been using lots of different ways to say thank you. Here they share statistics showing the impact of their work. Other tweets show them writing thank you letters. Members of staff talked about this on their personal twitter accounts too. And they made fab personal doodles.

Marie Curie - a supporter says thanks for the fun thank you

Personal thanks

Rethink Mental Illness also called supporters to say thank you. In total they contacted 221 people!

Rethink Mental Illlness contacted 221 people to say thank you

Breast Cancer Care started a #ChainOfThanks.

Debbie's thanks to her best friend as part of BCC's ChainOfThanks

The British Heart Foundation thanked their 68,000 event fundraisers and also tweeted a special thanks to the Marathon runners. They also tweeted personal thank you’s using gifs and red and white images to certain supporters. And the CEO Simon Gillespie tweeted his thanks to staff and volunteers.

BHF: 'you ran the miles, you made it count'

Dogs Trust thanked their corporate partners, saying they were ‘wagtastic’.

Dog's Trust sending personal thanks

How do you say thanks?

It is easy but important to say thank you. How do you do it?

A general thank you works well with an image or video to attract attention. These images, videos and actions are low cost and reasonably low-effort. You don’t need a big budget to say thank you well using social media.

Have you seen any other creative thanks today? Please do share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading 🙂

See also GivingTuesday’s Twitter Moments showing some of the UK charity activity and how brands got involved.

Images on social media

Images are crucial to social media. This post looks at how charities can use images to grab attention or tell their stories. It uses lots of examples from Twitter but many of the rules also apply to Facebook

Just two years ago, images were a nice-to-have. Now they are a must-have to grab attention. This screenshot from my Twitter feed shows the difference. In 2014 in a random sample, just one tweet out of nine has an image. In 2016, four out of five, does.

Twitter in 2014 = one tweet with an image out of 8. Twitter 2016 = 5 tweets, 4 with images

Personally I used to scroll through tweets sifting by account. Now I primarily sift by images. Images have to be eye-catching and engaging to make me stop and read. But, what makes a good image?

Images which tell a story

L-R Maurice at St Paul's, Toilet Twinning donations jar, Rio's life-saving heart transplant

Images can tell a story themselves or can be a gateway into a story – a hook to get the reader’s interest. For example, the image of 101-year old volunteer Maurice at St Paul’s Cathedral makes you want to read his story. The image from Toilet Twinning of a jar of coins is intreging, it makes you ask questions about how much they are trying to raise and how. This BHF image of Rio following his life-saving heart transplant shows him in hospital surrounded by medical equipment and with a breathing tube. Each is a powerful image, hooking us in to want to read more.

Images which are cute / beautiful

L-R Blue Cross ginea pigs, National Trust property with 2100 likes on FB, Royal Academy #imageoftheday

Images are like a reward, they can brighten someone’s day. Social media is made to share cute or beautiful images.

Unsurprisingly, animal charities such as Blue Cross, share lots of cute images. These are rewards for people who love guinea pigs / cats / hedgehogs etc. The images are useful to illustrate messages about rehoming and general education about animals. Images are also crucial to support social media fundraising. See this tweet from the Barn Owl Trust – awww.

Many museums and galleries share items from their collections via social media. For example, the East London Group and the Royal Academy connect with their followers with an #imageoftheday often connecting this with something that is topical. Heritage organisations are great at using images of their properties. The National Trust share their amazing collection of photos brilliantly on Facebook and get a high level of interaction.

You don’t have to be the National Trust to share beautiful pictures. Do you have a garden or view to share (see tweets from Canal and River Trust or Lewis-Manning Hospice)? Are you having a cake sale (see Maternal Worldwide’s Muffins for Midwives campaign)? Think about what is cute or beautiful in your organisation.

Images which are fun

Fun images are harder to get right as humour is very subjective and hard to translate through technology. You can be creative, playful, topical and fun but only if it is relevant and appropriate for your brand and audience. Take a look at Give Blood’s recent use of emojis or YoungScot’s use of animated gifs.

L-R Bill Bailey with an owl on his head, St John's tips for Jon Snow, Dave the Worm enjoying his breakfast

Images can be fun because the people in them are having fun (think fundraising or volunteering activities) or include notoriously fun people (see this tweet of Bill Bailey with an owl on his head from the Barn Owl Trust).

Images can also be fun because they join in with something lots of people are talking about. Memes, TV shows, the weather, news stories can all be used to join in with existing fun. See St John Ambulance’s first aid tips for Game of Thrones characters.

Organisations sometimes create an alter-ego for their brand which can do the fun stuff. Examples of this are RSPB’s Vote for Bob and Dave The Worm from Parkinson’s UK.

Images which are shocking

Images can be shocking because they show things we wouldn’t usually see (such as Dr Kate Granger’s moving deathbed tweets).  Or because they show a truly shocking situation (think of the images of the young Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015). Images which are shocking may provoke feelings of disgust, anger or sadness. However, reactions may vary; it can be difficult to predict where an image goes too far (think of the backlash against Barnado’s adverts in 2000).

Whether you use shocking images depends on your cause and what you are trying to achieve. Remember that you have a duty of care. Images don’t need to be graphic to have impact.

Think about your audience and what they will tolerate. Think about what you are trying to achieve, what action you are trying to prompt. Think about balance. If your subject matter is only ever shocking, how can you illustrate it in a sensitive but impactful way which brings people in to find out more?

L-R Oxfam, Greenpeace, Brain Injury Hub

  • Sometimes text can add impact to an image. This example from Oxfam International shows a beautiful image of a Burundian mother and child with the words ‘A refugee is a person who doesn’t have any options’.
  • This Greenpeace campaign about the recycle-ability of disposable coffee cups uses images of Caffe Nero, Costa and Starbucks cups with a shocking fact (7 million coffee cups are used per day in the UK. 1% are recycled).
  • An image can be shocking without being obviously sad. This example from The Brain Injury Hub shows toddler Harmonie-Rose who had meningitis playing with her dolls.
  • This image shared by Aspire is a still from a Channel 4 news item. It shows a man cutting food with a sharp knife using his prosthetic hand.

Images which give information

Effective images can also be ones which give infomation or are just interesting. This could be a photo of something which helps someone to understand a situation or topic (such as this tweet from Thames21 showing microbeads), or an image which illustrates data (see using graphics to illustrate data on social media for lots of examples) or illustrates text (such as Mind’s series of quotes).

L-R Thames 21 fingertip showing microbeads, Mind quote (I have many separate distinct and unique 'parts' of my personality), GoodGym runners

Information pictures also play an important role in inspiring people to get involved. Images of people doing fundraising or volunteering can inspire other people to do the same (‘there’s a picture of people running, they look like me and like they are having a good time, I could do it too’). This example from GoodGym is great as it shows runners in bright T-shirts running along a street, smiling!

Your image strategy

An image strategy may be an over-inflated term but it is important to spend some time thinking about and documenting how you will use images.

  • Do your images fit into the categories above? They can of course just be window-dressing, there to look pretty or eye-catching (see this tweet from MindApples).
  • Do you have something in your housestyle or brand guidelines about the types of images you use? What about your social media or content strategy?
  • Do you have a different style for social media or do you use the same image for the same story across all your channels?
  • Do you use an image for every tweet or post or just when you have something appropriate ready to use? What is your policy?

What thinking or analysis have you done about images? It is worth testing out what style actually works for you and on what channels. What works on Facebook might not necessarily work on Twitter. And what works on these ‘news’ channels might be different than what works on other types of social channels such as Instagram. Don’t assume that your audience are the same.

Spend some time testing out different techniques and using the analytics within Twitter and Facebook to find out the impact / level of interaction.

The rules

Images are very subjective. What appeals to one person, might not work for another. Whether you are taking the picture yourself or are choosing from your image library, there are some basic rules which apply.

  • Don’t use pictures which are unclear or blurry or dark – on social media you have seconds to get your message across or to attract attention. Images need to be instantly appealing with strong contrasting colours (like this RNIB tweet of a bright green broccoli in a red colander). If you only have poor quality images, why not make them into a collage to make them more interesting. This this collage from Muffins for Midwives which tells more of a story than a single image.
  • Don’t use images which are cluttered or hard to understand – photograph your subjects on a plain background if possible. Your tweets and posts will be looked at on all kinds of devices and may appear very small. Sometimes this rule can be broken if the background tells a story. For example, the BHF image of Rio above or this image from the Trussell Trust of a big group of children in a warehouse.
  • Avoid pictures which are too complicated or badly cropped – these can lose meaning. Strangely cropped images may attract attention but might just be too wacky (see MyCommunity’s spade image).
  • Don’t be boring – do you really have to use that giant donation cheque image?! (Just do a search for ‘charity cheques’ to see how universally boring these are.) Of course it can be politic to take a cheque photo but does it really work on social media? There are lots of ways of showing a fundraising total without having to show the dreaded cheque / handshake (see this press release about JD Wetherspoon’s CLIC Sargent fundraising which shows the total in giant golden balloons or this big thank you from SeeAbility).

Google search for 'charity cheques'

>>See more about cheques in this newer post – Say no to GIANT cheque pictures

Remember also, that not everyone following your social media channels will be able to see your images. Twitter and Facebook do now have some accessibility features, although on Twitter it is applied manually and only via apps. Unless you use alt text, avoid using an image on its own. Instead include meaningful text about what the image is showing and ideally a link for more information (the Mind tweet above is a good example of this).

Checklist

  • Do you know what is right for your cause / brand / audience / channel?
  • What is your image policy and style?
  • Do your images follow the rules of good pictures?
  • Do you use images which tell a story?
  • Are your images cute / beautiful?
  • Are your images fun – do you use humour or respond to topical stories or memes?
  • Do you use images which are shocking?
  • Do your images give information?
  • Are they just window-dressing?
  • Are you using images accessibly?

Bottom-line is, don’t be boring!

Experiment, be creative and involve the team to take new images. Use analytics to check what is working. Find your image style.

Further reading

See also, my previous posts on using graphics to illustrate data on social media and how to illustrate difficult causes and subjects. Also, my chapter on images in the Charity Social Media Toolkit on the SkillsPlatform.

Do you agree?

When have you broken the rules and it has worked? Do you have a style guide for images? How do you manage your images and how they are used? What images have you seen or used recently?

Please do share your experience and examples by adding a comment. I’d love to hear from you.