Hands putting four puzzle pieces together

Do you use an impact model as a strategic guide to design, evaluate and manage your signature program? How often do you feel like you are missing human interest and societal outcomes as a part of your story of impact?

As we each seek to implement the strongest possible community programs dedicated to societal needs, storytelling has become even more crucial to our stakeholders’ ability to understand our efforts, results, and ongoing commitments. Our employees, consumers, customers, and investors are looking to understand more about the “S” in ESG. They are interested in how companies invest and engage in local communities and want to know how companies are improving lives, addressing equity and inclusion and, ultimately, delivering a social ROI.

It is important to use a logic model to map strategy, define intended impact, gather data, evaluate and inform communications. And this includes the crucial “theory of change” statement summarizing your program’s intended change based on a set of activities and approaches.

Impact models also help point to where it’s important to engage with internal teams and nonprofit partners, ensuring they are aligned around shared goals, approach and data capturing. Additionally, engaging partners is extremely useful in deciding which measurement tools to use. Whether the tools include pre- and post-program surveys, interviews, nonprofit partner reports and/or third-party evaluation, the fun part arrives in determining what you are measuring. For most companies, the common answer revolves around outputs—these are typically numbers such as dollars donated, people reached, hours volunteered, and items delivered in a specific number of communities. Output metrics are informative, but don’t allow you to tell your broader story around human outcomes and what your company has learned from its efforts. The latter is much more powerful.

Keep in mind, stakeholders are interested in “how” companies approach their social impact work and what’s working and what’s not. They want to know about the types of strategic investments, activities, and leadership companies are activating to address specific social issues.

Once your model and program are codified and time has transpired to review your results, you’re ready to understand the impact achieved and architect your story. To get started on crafting your messaging, focus on articulating the following:

• How your social impact program connects to your company’s purpose and mission
• A point of view around your social issue focus
• Your program mission—and how this ultimately aligns to your company’s purpose
• The unique approach you take to the work—this could be how you “invest, engage or lead”
• Program results—hone in on outcomes vs. outputs
• Human, personal stories from program participants, volunteers, and other stakeholders

As you craft the elements of your story, authentic visuals, including photos and graphics are essential. At the end of the day, the content and imagery need to be substantive and real embodying authenticity.

Remember, impact modeling takes time and is an ongoing process. Create opportunities to continuously test and learn as you execute and refine your program. Designing and coming back to this tool at least twice a year is an important part of program design and storytelling. Embracing impact modeling will set you up for success and enable you to share stories that are meaningful, personal, and rooted in real impact.


Share This