How to write better social impact stories

Whether you're writing a story for a speech, a pitch, a talk, or a website, good social impact stories communicate to listeners that you're not just talk. 

Photo by  Thought Catalog  on  Unsplash

As I look around at websites of social enterprises, I always get really excited at the idea of what they're doing. Some of those I get most excited about are the ones that create consumer goods that employs people who have been left out by society in some way. The thought of buying a product that contributes to another person's new life is astounding to me.

Once I'm sold on the idea and am in love with the product, I next look for the stories. From my experience in the nonprofit sector, I know that businesses and organizations can have big goals, but can sometimes even harm the people they're trying to help.

I excitedly click on the "impact report," and am disappointed when the information being shared is about the numbers of people who (may have) benefitted, not in the number of people's lives who were positively changed by the work.

This certainly represents challenges many social enterprises face, challenges your business may face.

Photo by  Lena Bell  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash

Your business may seek to support people who are in very distant locations from your office, or you may worry about intruding into people's lives to learn about changes that may be occurring. Or maybe both. 

Your business may have also accidentally stumbled into the assumption that because you have good intentions, the positive outcomes will follow. You may assume that everyone assumes that good things are happening - and you're right! 

But over time, not being able to communicate stories of the positive changes people are experiencing will result in mistrust by consumers, and potentially cynicism from investors. 

The first question to ask yourself if you aren't able to share stories of change is whether you have the data. Do you have actionable measurement in place? In other words, are you collecting data and information that can tell you about changes happening in people's lives? If not, use some of the strategies I've shared in this article to help you start.

If you have useful data and have data that shows the changes that are occurring in people's lives, focus on these with a laser focus. Design a communications campaign around these specific changes. If you don't have stories that demonstrate this data, go talk with the people who have benefited from your work and listen to their stories. Integrate these stories into every pitch you give and every grant you write.

One tool I really like for this is called the Most Significant Change Technique. You can learn more about that here.

Lastly, test your stories with people who are not in the organization. Send your story copy to an honest friend, and ask them for constructive feedback. Remember that you want your communications to be relevant to your external audience, not to your staff.