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Data Storytelling: The #1 Skill to Learn to Make Better Decisions for Your Nonprofit

It’s a skill that is sweeping the for-profit sector by storm. 

But we couldn’t let you and your nonprofit miss out on all the fun! 

We’re talking about all things data storytelling in this article. You’ll learn more about what it is, why it’s necessary, how you can do it, and the benefits of data storytelling using nonprofit analytics. 

What is Data Storytelling? 

Ah, the age-old question, “What is data storytelling?” It’s a great one with a great answer. 

Data storytelling is the combination of science and art to help decision-makers find better solutions for their business or nonprofit. 

You’re taking the computer science of data. Think of all the data you collect in your nonprofit from the information about your donors, to your Google Analytics information, to your insights on your email fundraising campaigns

So, you’re taking that data and you’re combining it with the art of storytelling. 

Yep! Like the novels on your bookshelf at home – those kinds of stories! 

When you weave them together, you create a story of your data collection for your nonprofit. 

A slide deck shows nonprofit data storytelling to make better sense of nonprofit analytics.

What is a Data Story? 

But what is a data story? 

A data story is the collection of all that data from your nonprofit tech tools. You create the story you need to tell with that data using visuals and narrative to engage your audience. 

It’s a way for you to use storytelling techniques to better understand and communicate all of the insights you’ve gathered! 

Why is it Necessary for Your Nonprofit? 

There are two main reasons why data storytelling using nonprofit analytics is necessary for your organization. 

The first reason is that data-backed decision-making is the best way to grow your nonprofit effectively! 

And the second reason is that storytelling is the best way to get humans to understand complex information. 

So let’s unpack those! 

Data-Backed Decision-Making:

We’ve said it many times here at Nonprofit-Apps, but you know us! We don’t mind saying it again! 

Data often drives the best decisions on how to grow your nonprofit. 

Think back to high school science class. Particularly the fun days when you got to experiment in the lab! 

One of the things the science teacher always said was, “we’re coming up with a hypothesis, or a guess, of how something works. Then we’re using the experiment and what we find to back up our guess.” 

That’s the exact same process for nonprofits. We make an educated guess that goes something like, “You know what? I’ve heard nonprofits are having great success with their social media marketing. We should also use social media marketing to see if we can bring in more supporters.” 

Then, you go through the motions of setting everything up. You post consistently for 90 days. And you collect all of the insights on your engagement, your reach, and your new supporters. 

That was the experiment! 

With all of the data, now you can back up your guess. Did it work? Are there things you need to change to continue seeing success? 

With that data, you can now make data-backed decision-making that might sound something like, “LinkedIn didn’t do very well for us, but Instagram did! Let’s put more of our effort into Instagram, and less of it into LinkedIn.” 

The Power of Storytelling: 

The second reason for data storytelling is the power behind storytelling in general. For thousands of years, even before we had paper to write on, humans have been telling stories. 

It was a way for our ancestors to remember important information. And because our ancestors used it all the time, it’s been hardwired into our brains to use it as a way to make sense of information. 

If you’re not the decision-maker for your nonprofit, then chances are you’re going to need to show nonprofit analytics to someone who is. 

But showing them nothing but numbers and spreadsheets won’t help them understand. 

Storytelling will, though! 

How Can You Use Nonprofit Analytics to Tell a Data Story? 

Don’t get discouraged with the idea of data storytelling just yet! Because it doesn’t have to be super complex. 

Forbes has a great idea on how businesses can use data storytelling for their structures. And we think you can use this same idea for your nonprofit! 

Think of TED Talks. There are so many great ones out there, and yet a lot of the speakers are presenting complex information that the average person might not know a lot about. 

But an analysis of the top 500 TED Talks showed that storytelling made up 65% of their content. 

That’s because the presenters know the power behind storytelling and what it can do for its audience! 

So, as you gear up to present your nonprofit analytics and insights to your board, or whoever the decision-makers may be, treat it like a TED Talk! Create a presentation – it doesn’t have to be long – that uses storytelling to showcase the data. 

And as you start on your presentation, think of how a story works. What’s the plotline? Maybe it’s a pain point your donors have. Maybe it’s a pain point your nonprofit has! What’s the objective you need your plotline to get to? Is it solving the pain point using a certain tech tool? 

Are there any main characters? Is there a narrative you can create around your data? 

Finally, use important factors like a slide deck. And add in visuals to keep your audience engaged! 

The Benefits of Using Nonprofit Analytics for Data Storytelling: 

We know it can sound too advanced to even bother with, but we promise the benefits of using data storytelling to showcase your nonprofit analytics are there! 

Aside from wowing your audience, you can also do the following with the help of this technique: 

1. Data Storytelling Shows a Clear Picture of Your Nonprofit Analytics

The number one thing data storytelling does is it shows a clear picture of your nonprofit analytics. 

Rather than just guessing what your analytics are saying, or even just presenting a spreadsheet and hoping your audience can understand what it means, a data story shows them. 

It gives them more insight into what you’re asking for. And with more insight, decision-makers can, well, make better decisions! 

2. Data Storytelling Cuts Through Complex Information

Like we mentioned above, stories are the best way to cut through complex information and get someone to understand what you’re telling them. 

Not to mention, it’s a way for audiences to remember what you’re telling them, too. 

3. Data Storytelling Gives Decision-Makers New Perspectives

Sometimes, we get too caught up in our old ways. And it’s hard for us to let go and try something new. 

But data storytelling can give decision-makers new perspectives on how operations can work within your nonprofit organization. 

This is a skill that is taking the for-profit world by storm! But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your nonprofit organization. 

It’s an incredible technique that allows your nonprofit’s decision-makers to better understand what you need and what your nonprofit needs to continue making an impact. 

Want more related to this? Check out these posts! 

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