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!
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