A Few Great Stories Do Not Necessarily Make For a Great Charitable Program

The Importance of Stories and Statistics of Charitable Programs

Great stories are important as examples of the wonderful work of nonprofit organizations and charitable programs. Being a great story-teller is helpful. Success stories can help connect people to your cause and hopefully entice people to donate to your organization. But the stories need to be representative of the bigger picture.  It’s important to follow-up with outcome measures and solid metrics to show that these stories are representative of the great work that you’re doing for all whom you serve, not just the success stories.

I recently read an article by Mario Morino from a blog post in Venture Philanthropy Partners . At the (almost) end of the article, Mr. Morino gives caution of telling stories with the goal of fundraising without supporting the stories with facts, data and statistics. He asks if those stories are representative of the outcomes and success of the majority, or at least, more than just one client.

Mr. Morino’s advice resonates with me. Many moons ago, I worked for a program that assisted mentally ill inmates as they transitioned back into the community from incarceration. We did great work and helped many people. The program has many wonderful success stories of placing men and women into transitional living situations; some who had not lived outside of an institutional setting in the previous 25 years.

But, a few great stories do not make a great program. We unfortunately also had many men and women who did not remain stable in the community or who absconded from our program and the courts had to put a warrant out for their arrest. The majority of our clients were not able to successfully remain in the community and we were not able to reduce the recidivism rate to our target percentage.

Great stories of success are critical for nonprofit organizations and charitable programs. Outcome measures are equally as important. I believe that they both have their place and you must support one with the other. Tell the great stories. Give statistics of how many you serve. Give ratios on the impact you make in the community. Prove your value to show that the population that you serve would be worse off if you were not there! On Daniel Pink’s ‘Office Hours’, Seth Godin asks, “How many people would actually be distraught if your organization disappeared?” Ask yourself this question, come up with your answer, and then prove it!


Photo credit to: Microsoft Office Clip Art

Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.

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