Don’t get bogged down in data

Nonprofit and philanthropy professionals love data, maybe too much.

Numbers, used sparingly, can help explain a community need, measure how a charitable program is helping to address it, and show donors and funders the return on their investment in the program.

But while data can be a useful means to the end of fixing problems, many people working in the charitable world seem to let data drive their thinking, decision-making, programs and funding, as well as their appeals to donors.

Data are not what matter for a nonprofit. What matters is the difference you make in the lives of the people you serve. And the most effective way to show your impact is by telling compelling stories about how your work improved the lives of your clients.

Data can help by tracking and quantifying your impact, but the story you tell about your work should focus on the human need in your commuity that you address, and on the way real people benefit from your nonprofit.

Do not be seduced by data. Instead, use it to help tell real stories about the people you serve and how their lives are better as a result of the work you do.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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