According to TWB Fundraising, an effective fundraiser should be number-driven and results-oriented. When fundraising professionals focus on numbers and data, they get tangible results for their organizations.
But what about donors? Just as fundraisers need to stay focused on data, donors want to know that their contributions are driving real, lasting change.
When you use data in your communications with donors, you provide credibility to your claims and illustrate the impact of their contributions. As a result, you can transform your key messages into data-driven stories that engage donors and inspire them to take further action.
In this guide, we’ll explain what data-driven storytelling is and how your organization can leverage it to grab donors’ attention. Let’s get started!
What Is Data-Driven Storytelling?
Data-driven storytelling is the practice of transforming data points into stories and accompanying visuals that are easy to understand and meant to inspire action. Considering that 75% of people are visual learners, data-driven storytelling is an impactful way to communicate important information to your donors.
When your donors can better understand how their contributions make a difference, they’ll be more likely to continue supporting your cause. Consequently, you’ll be better equipped to help your beneficiaries.
What Are the Components of Data-Driven Storytelling?
To ensure your data story is comprehensive, there are three main components you must include:
- Data analysis. The building blocks of data-driven storytelling are the statistics and information that will ground your story in facts.
- Narrative. The narrative is the story that weaves the data points together. While traditionally the narrative component contains useful descriptions of the data, you can make it even more impactful by incorporating real beneficiary testimonials and information.
- Data visualization. Develop visuals like charts, infographics, tables, images, or even videos to supplement your data-driven narratives.
Together, these elements can enhance any presentation, speech, or donor outreach by transforming large amounts of data into powerful insights.
4 Tips for Data-Driven Storytelling
Now that you have a better understanding of the basics of data-driven storytelling, we’ll dive into some tips to ensure you implement this technique effectively.
1. Determine your goal.
Like with any initiative, goal setting is important for effective data-driven storytelling. Goals will add focus to your storytelling efforts and help you determine what data you need to collect. Setting clear goals will also help you choose the right call to action to inspire your donors.
For example, your data-driven storytelling efforts will look different if your goal is to retain donors as opposed to acquiring new ones. Past donors already know the basics of your organization, so they would benefit more from data about specific campaigns and initiatives they’ve been a part of. In contrast, potential donors likely want to learn who your work supports and any data that illustrates the impact of your nonprofit overall.
2. Analyze your donor data.
Review your donor data to determine what types of statistics your audience would best respond to. And, take your donors’ demographics into account. For example, donors who live in Atlanta may prefer hearing about the results of a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts in the surrounding region.
Additionally, you can use donor information to cater your data-driven storytelling to your donors’ specific interests as they relate to your nonprofit. For instance, some organizations offer many different services.
An animal shelter may rescue animals in need, prepare them for adoption, organize volunteer services, and provide spaces for animals in the shelter to play. Donors can support any of these areas with their contributions. By determining which initiatives donors are most interested in, you can be sure to touch upon related data in your presentation.
If you don’t have enough donor data to make informed decisions about your data-driven storytelling, consider conducting a data append. As AlumniFinder explains, data appends supplement your database with information from third-party sources.
Once you have all the necessary information, segment donors based on shared characteristics, such as their demographics, geographic location, or giving history, and launch separate storytelling campaigns that target each group. Continuing with the animal shelter example, an organization might create segments for donors interested in supporting pet adoptions and those who want to contribute to animal rescue.
3. Collect data for storytelling.
Next, decide which data you’ll use to bring your story to life. According to NXUnite’s guide to nonprofit data collection, whether you choose to leverage donor retention rates, average giving amounts, or fundraising campaign results, there are several different sources from which you can obtain data for data-driven storytelling. These include:
- Your constituent relationship management software (CRM). Your CRM likely has a variety of raw data you can transform into useful insights. Before incorporating this information into your data-driven storytelling, be sure to clean your data so that it’s organized and accurate.
- Your annual report. Since your annual report summarizes all of the work your nonprofit has done in the past year, it’s a great resource for your data-driven storytelling. Pull relevant statistics and case studies from the report as needed.
- Your beneficiaries. Ultimately, your data-driven storytelling should reflect the good you’ve done for your beneficiaries, so what better way to learn more about your impact than going straight to the source? Consider surveying your beneficiaries to gain more data that illustrates how your nonprofit has changed their lives.
Using data from different sources will demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact from several perspectives. That way, you’ll take a comprehensive data-driven storytelling approach that touches upon different aspects of your organization.
4. Create a storyboard.
A storyboard allows you to mesh the data you’ve collected with the visual representations you’d like to create. It can also help you summarize key information and determine how you’ll organize your data points.
To create a storyboard, follow these steps:
- Start with an outline. To begin, decide which data points you’ll be using, and list them out to provide the focus for your storyboard.
- Sketch in your main ideas. Fill in your outline with the messages you’d like to convey to your donors. Start visualizing these elements by sketching a square for each message on your storyboard.
- Organize your information. Now that you have your key messages in front of you, determine the order you’d like to present them to tell your data story. This step may require you to eliminate unnecessary information that pulls focus from the most important data points.
- Decide upon visual representations. Lastly, determine how you’ll represent your data visually. As mentioned before, you may create a combination of charts, infographics, tables, images, and videos to make your data-driven storytelling stand out.
If you’re having trouble developing your data visualizations, try asking an AI tool to help you decide the right format for each set of data. Look for a generative AI tool that can quickly answer your questions. Additionally, make sure to adjust the AI output as needed to ensure you’re prioritizing human-based storytelling best practices.
To assist your beneficiaries in the long term, your nonprofit needs to build meaningful, lasting relationships with donors. With these data-driven storytelling techniques, you can grab your supporters’ attention and encourage their continued support.
Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing & Sales Operations for Deep Sync. She joined the organization in 2017 and brings 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, sales enablement, and digital marketing. With a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude and a big-picture mindset, Gaby loves solving marketing and business challenges. She earned both a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa. Gaby enjoys spending time with her fiercely outspoken daughter; hiking and kayaking; rocking out in the first row of a live show; and giving back to her local community.