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How Nonprofits Can Increase Trust And Funding With Data-Driven Storytelling

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Trust. It’s at the heart of donor giving and the key element nonprofits need to acquire and retain donors. It’s the seed that blooms into funding and feeds every organization’s mission. When existing and potential donors trust you, they are willing to provide what’s necessary for your nonprofit to blossom and grow. But how do you establish trust? Read on to discover the value of data-driven storytelling and how this key feature increases trust and enables your nonprofit to drive more revenue. By applying simple information-sharing strategies, you can appeal to donors who, in today’s dynamic world, are more sophisticated and demand data when deciding how to allocate funds for donation.

Data-driven storytelling and the Theory of Change

Like words, numbers tell a story. And like photos, they can also paint a picture, especially when transformed into charts, infographics, dashboards, etc., or combined with photos of the communities you serve. Data-driven storytelling simply uses numbers in these various forms, combined with written words, to clearly show donors how their money is used and has made a positive impact on individuals and communities. That is the core of what donors want to know. How is their money helping someone living in poverty? How, exactly, is it being spent and placing them, the donors, in the role of change-makers? Including data-driven storytelling in impact reports is a powerful way to retain current donors and inspire them to increase donations. Weaving impact metrics into marketing materials or new donor welcome emails is likewise an effective strategy for expanding your donor base. 

Donors want and expect their gifts to result in positive impact. Nonprofits can fulfill this desired outcome by using the Theory of Change, which illustrates how and why a desired change is expected to happen. Simply put, use the art of visual storytelling to show them how their money funds specific initiatives and all the outcomes that lead to achieving the desired goals of those initiatives.  

Numbers are boring

You may think you’re already informing donors by providing spreadsheets or some other form of data, but let’s face it numbers are boring to most people. Donors care far more about outcomes than outputs. Do you want their eyes to glaze over, or would you rather present numbers in a way that touches hearts and minds, thereby inspiring donors to give? That’s the beauty of data-driven storytelling. It displays the value of your data in a way that satisfies their need for information as well as their desire for success stories. This magical combination translates into the trust essential for nonprofits to elicit from donors.  

According to, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was voted the most trusted nonprofit in 2022. On St. Jude’s website, you’ll quickly see the cost of pediatric cancer, how much money they need to continue treating young cancer patients, their six-year strategic plan, and much more. It’s not hard to see why people are compelled to trust St. Jude and donate after seeing this example of data-driven storytelling.  

Coming in at Number 4 of most trusted nonprofits is the Special Olympics, with a website teeming with the art of storytelling. From written words to photos, videos, colorful maps, and graphs, there is no shortage of visuals that say, “this is what we’ve done, what we’re planning, who we impact, and how your money makes it all happen.” Check out their 2021 Global Reach Report for an excellent example of storytelling with data. 

The leaders of these extremely successful nonprofits know data-driven storytelling inspires stakeholders and donors, increases engagement, and influences decision-making. How? By directing positive impact back to the donors using The StoryBrand Framework, in which donors are the heroes of nonprofit success stories. Now you’ve got visually interesting data, heartstring stories of people and communities benefiting from donations, and a powerful message to donors saying YOU are the ones changing lives with food, shelter, healthcare, and more.

A tool for nonprofit success

Unlike businesses and corporations, nonprofits measure success by helping at-risk individuals and communities thrive. Data-driven storytelling is the key to that success. When donors, stakeholders, and the public clearly understand your mission and how their gifts accomplish it, they want to be engaged. They feel inspired to tell others about “their” nonprofit in conversations or on social media and may even feel motivated to increase donations. In this way, data-driven storytelling aids in advocacy, fundraising, stakeholder engagement, and visibility. 

Communication is key in making this all happen. Every form of communication matters, and each one should tell a consistent story. Use impact reports to illustrate how funds were used and their results, and email campaigns to welcome new donors and nurture existing ones. Likewise, fundraising pages and scripts should weave the art of storytelling with data to highlight accomplishments, plans, and success stories. Make sure you also have a strong digital presence, including an attractive, user-friendly website and consistent posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. This approach facilitates donors’ understanding of the impact THEY make through your organization. If you’re not sure whether you are accomplishing this, take the two-minute Social Impact Solutions Fundraising Quiz.


All these effective strategies have one downside: they take time. Implementing these changes may involve hiring additional staff or adding to the workload of current employees. This can diminish the funds and focus on what truly matters: accomplishing your goals and retaining donors. Social Impact Solutions helps nonprofits measure and market their impact, so they can increase trust with funders, provide more value for their constituents, and scale their impact. If you are interested in learning more about how you can grow your organization, visit their website or feel free to schedule a free discovery call.

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