What’s your true impact?

How to use an impact report to share the real change your nonprofit organization is creating.

Wendy Ruyle 7.13.2022


Nonprofits have an obligation to share financial information on a yearly basis but showing your true impact will likely move the needle for donations and engagement more than a dry financial table.

Here are some tips on how to communicate your impact to your constituents.

What to share

You probably have a lot of information about what you accomplished in the last year in different forms. Think about what your audiences want to know. For individual donors, they want to know their donation is making a difference. But what kind of difference? Individual experiences? Number of people served? Population served? Systemic changes enacted so your services are no longer needed? Identify what is most important to them and make sure you are collecting this key data throughout the year.

For volunteers, board members, and staff it might be more about celebrating their achievements and rewarding their hard work. Corporate donors might be focused on the transparency and credibility of your organization. Partners want to learn from your best practices and identify ways to collaborate.

When you’ve identified what your constituents want to know, think about what conveys that content in the best way. It might be financials, key factoids, personal stories about recipients of your services, and quotes from volunteers or funders. Highlighting systemic change might require more than year-over-year comparisons. Think about a timeline to point out changes in your focus area over a longer period.

Don’t forget to share your learnings too. If a current program isn’t as successful as you want it to be what changes will you be making in the future?

How to share it

There are many different channels in which to share your impact report. Again, think about your audiences and where and how they want to receive this information. Is a printed piece the best tool? For some audiences, yes. For others, a web microsite or interactive PDF will be more likely to be viewed and shared.

Others want just key points shared in an e-newsletter or on social media, so they get a top-level impression of your organization. Board members and key funders may want an in-depth presentation of the content that is tailored just for them.

And remember, the content you share might not just be words and numbers—photos and videos can tell a compelling story on their own.

Make sure you are thinking about all these avenues as you create your report, so it is easy to translate artwork and messaging from one channel to another. And in each channel, be sure to guide your readers with layers of content to make it scannable and digestible.

Plan for the future

As you brainstorm ways to communicate your impact, think about what data you’d like to share but don’t have, and then plan for next year. Do you need to capture video at community events? Are there data points you haven’t been collecting that you should? Do you need to implement end of project surveys with recipients, volunteers, or decision makers? Assign a team to collect this information so you continually improve your reporting.

It’s hard to prioritize this kind of marketing when you are swept up in the day-to-day workings of your organization but setting aside just a little time each week or month to capture key content will make your impact report have that much more impact.

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