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Messaging That’s Memorable Blog Series, Part 3: The Impact Message

Posted by on August 26th, 2021
Posted in Blog, Messaging That’s Memorable Blog Series, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging, Storytelling   

Welcome to the third installment of Messaging That’s Memorable blog series in which we guide you through our four-part messaging structure that we use with our clients to help them communicate who they are and what they do in a succinct yet compelling way.

Now that you have an understanding of how to immediately captivate would-be supporters through your Belief Message and know how to reel them in by naming the problem your organization was uniquely created to address through your Problem Message, it’s time to continue to hold their attention and paint a picture of the impact of your work through the Impact Message.

The Impact Message is the message you tell of what happens as a result of your organization’s efforts.

Sound familiar? This message is the most common type of message nonprofits communicate to their audience, and it is the one that many struggle to write and to write well.

Many organizations talk about their impact by spewing facts, figures, and statistics. It’s been said before that a pie chart never made anyone march on Washington. We couldn’t agree more. 

Other organizations have talked and continue to talk about their impact unethically, using stories they did not receive permission to use, stealing agency away from those in their stories, and centering their organization as the saviors rather than participants in uplifting the communities they serve. 

So how do you share your story of impact ethically and in a compelling way?

Here is Mission Minded’s model for crafting Impact Messages:

The best way to communicate your impact is to tell a story—a story that illustrates your organization’s benefit told in a compelling way, ideally from the voice of your community. The good news is that your organization probably has lots of stories of impact, whether or not you’ve uncovered them yet. 

But part of sharing an impact story successfully begins by asking the question of whose story it really is. Is it yours to tell? Do you have permission to do so, and can that permission be revoked at a later date? 

Once you’ve vetted the story you wish to share, we recommend you structure those stories for the best impact:

  1. Introduce your characters
  2. Explain the plot/conflict
  3. Describe the resolution/outcome
  4. Explain how your organization and the characters came together to create the outcome

That final bit—explaining how only this partnership could have created this outcome—is key. It’s meant to reinforce what makes your organization different from all the others. 

Additionally, make sure you are making an emotional connection by employing these storytelling best practices:

  • Create suspense by laying out a sequence of events.
  • Be specific and use visual language. Help your audience picture and care about your character.
  • Tell your audience, explicitly, what this all means.

Let’s see how Mission Minded client, Puente does it—starting with their Belief Message, building with a Problem Message, and completing the narrative with an Impact Message:

Belief Message

All individuals, families, and communities have dreams for the future. At Puente, we believe that self-sufficiency is essential for turning those dreams into reality. Every day, we walk side-by-side with our South Coast neighbors as they cross the bridge toward independence. By advocating for health, education, and community development, we elevate our communities to build confidence for themselves. Because when people have equitable access to the local resources that support their dreams, they’re one step closer to realizing them.

But you know, there’s a problem…

Problem Message

Health insurance, quality education, affordable housing, and employment rights remain inaccessible to many in Pescadero, La Honda, Loma Mar, and San Gregorio. These systems that surround San Mateo County, like so many other U.S. communities, are complex and often uphold historic racial oppression and discrimination. Our South Coast neighbors deserve an ally that shares tools for self-advocacy, empowering them to overcome these barriers of oppression and move confidently forward into their future.

Let me give you an example…

Impact Message

Eduardo worked alongside his family as a farm worker on the rural South Coast. Every year after his seasonal job at a farm ended, he and his family were unsure of where else to go. He had heard about Puente from other farm workers and decided to reach out. Known in town for his bilingual and professional skills, Eduardo was able to secure a job with Puente helping with the U.S. Census count.

At the conclusion of the U.S. Census project, Eduardo worried that he would be back in the same situation as before, unsure of his next steps in employment to help support his family. He applied for an open position as a Community Health Specialist with Puente, and he got the job because his passion and skills were a perfect fit for the role. Puente gained a strong, values-aligned staff member who could relate to the communities that Puente serves, and Eduardo was empowered to begin this new career journey and support his family in the process.

See how Puente’s Impact Message throughout the story, centers Eduardo, his drive and motivations, rather than the organization itself. Instead, what is honed in on is their symbiotic relationship that demonstrates how Puente was able to have a successful impact on their community through Eduardo’s own agency and how their drive impacted Puente equally bringing his skills and passion to their cause.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

In the last couple months, Mission Minded has written about impact storytelling through an equity lens, stories that foundations can tell as intermediaries, and stories that explain complexities in a concise and clear way. We highlight these resources below to help you tell your impact story authentically and inspire volunteers and donors to support your organization:

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series in which we talk about the Detail Message: the last message you should use to describe your organization’s results. Click here to access this four-part blog series.

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