Boosting annual report impact with stories [case study]

How can you communicate impact when you’re in the early stages of a long-term, ambitious plan? What information can you provide in an annual report when you are still laying the foundation for that plan? I had this conversation earlier this year with my clients at Imagine Canada, Marnie Grona, Director, Strategic Communications, and Lindsey Vodarek, Manager, Strategic Communications.

I’ve been writing Imagine Canada’s annual report for several years, and as usual, the process started with a discussion about what was significant in the reporting year, what was accomplished and what really matters to annual report readers.

Marnie and Lindsey recognized that their annual report readers are keen to know about the impact the organization is making. The challenge, however, was how to report on year two – a year of early implementation and calibration – of a seven-to-ten year plan to affect systems-level change for the charitable sector in Canada.

But while working toward changing systems at a sector-wide level, Imagine Canada continues to support individual charities and nonprofit organizations through advocacy, programs and services every day. So, we decided to complement the annual report content with stories about the critical support and tangible differences made for some of those organizations, to bring that side of their impact to life.

Boosting annual report impact with stories: case study featuring @ImagineCanada #nonprofit #storytelling #NPMC Click To Tweet

Bringing Imagine Canada’s impact to life with stories

“We decided to add impact stories to our report as a way to highlight the work we did over the past year in several key areas,” explains Lindsey. “We realized that sharing how our work affects the organizations we support is about more than statistics or a list of accomplishments.”

Marnie and Lindsey connected me with leaders at a few charities who partner with or are impacted by Imagine Canada’s work. I arranged and conducted interviews, drafted the stories, managed review and revisions and then handed them over to Lindsey. Here’s Lindsey’s take on that part of the process.

“I really appreciated having Marlene be able to interview our partners and clients. Having an outside perspective with insider knowledge allows her to ask the right questions and to get to the heart of the story. She’s able to see what’s really important to our partners and to communicate it clearly, in an engaging way. Hearing their insights through the interviews Marlene did and the stories she wrote really helped us understand our own impact, and we believe they better explain our work to others.”

Putting the stories to use – in the annual report and beyond

Lindsey explains how she put the stories to use once she received them: “We used the stories in our Annual Report and now feature them on our blog. We’ve shared the stories in program newsletters and on social media. As well, they have become testimonials for our social enterprise, Grant Connect, and our Standards accreditation and Caring Company programs. They will also be used to engage more organizations in our public policy advocacy, and in our fundraising efforts.”

Want to read a sampling of the stories?

Using the right data to open doors to new funding

Putting the heart into organizational best practices with save a child’s heart

Expected – and unexpected – benefits of case studies and stories

“I couldn’t recommend adding stories to your work enough!” says Lindsey. “Whether for your annual report, blog, or website, having a partner or client share their story is the most impactful way you can demonstrate the importance of your work. Stories build trust and create a connection to your cause – with donors, clients, your board, and staff.”

I asked Lindsey if any unexpected benefits came from developing these stories. Here’s what she said: “The unexpected benefit of these stories is how they impacted us – both staff and the board were moved to see how their work benefited people. It boosted our confidence and our passion for the work that we do. And we learned that it’s even better to collect stories along the way, as events and projects happen throughout the year. We’ve already had Marlene write another story on the impact of the latest research we did for the Rideau Hall Foundation, 30 Years of Giving in Canada.”

Do you need my help with story writing?

“Working with Marlene as an external writer allowed us to have the time and energy to focus on other aspects of our work. Working with a small team, it’s crucial to have professionals like Marlene, that you can count on to jump in and help,” says Lindsey. “Marlene is talented, professional, efficient – and fun! She is a pleasure to work with and she makes the process a breeze.”

Are you ready to boost the impact of your communications with stories? Do you need my help with writing them? Check out my Storytelling Simplified Service and get in touch with me. Using stories to bring annual report content to life: case study featuring @ImagineCanada #nonprofit #storytelling #NPMC Click To Tweet

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