The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Ignite Action with a Powerful Data Story

As a master storyteller people often mistakenly think I only tell stories about people.
The truth is, I find stories everywhere: In a glance between a client and staff, at board meetings, and even in financial data.

The question is what to do with the stories you find, especially the stories in your data?

One of the best ways to use some of the data you have is to share it in a visual display that paints a clear picture AND gets people to take actions to change the data. That might mean taking action to increase your fundraising, retain loyal donors, maintain an ample cushion of cash on hand at all times or, well, you decide.

The question then is: What actions do you want your staff, board and your community to take?

A good place to start is to create a board activity dashboard based on the actions your board has decided will make a difference.

A few metrics I like to see on a board dashboard are:

  • Attendance at board & committee meetings
  • Annual financial giving
  • Participation in donor stewardship activities: story sharing, thank you calls, guests brought to events

Creating the dashboards is the easy part. Deciding what to show on the dashboards is what takes time and focused conversation.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:

Step 1: At a retreat or during a board meeting, provide ample time for your board members to answer a few key questions. You can refer to this post 5 Questions Every Board Should Ask for some helpful questions.

Step 2: Once the board has determined the ways they will be of most value AND what they want to track, the role of staff is to create a dashboard to support their actions.

Step 3: Make sure your dashboard shows both what has happened in the past AND what actions you want to cause in the future.

Step 4: Review dashboards regularly with time to discuss activity updates and what new actions must be taken next.

Whether you use a traditional bar graph or you use something different (Blue Avocado has an excellent example), your goal is to cause new actions that support your mission and your bottom line.

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

Simple Board Activity Dashboard

On August 26 on the Nonprofit 911 Network for Good Webinar I’ll take you through a deeper dive into how to Change Your Data Story.

Join me to view samples of what your dashboards should look like and how best to use them to inspire action. I’ll share six of the most common mistakes when designing dashboards and some examples of what you can do differently.

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A nationally recognized master storyteller and fundraising culture expert, Lori L. Jacobwith has coached thousands to raise nearly $300 million dollars from individual donors. And counting. Her proven strategies & tools teach nonprofits and their boards to share stories powerfully and easily. Lori holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, has additional training from Indiana University’s Fund Raising School and is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Follow Lori on Twitter @LJacobwith or Facebook


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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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