How your charity can use data to tell compelling stories

The art of story telling is vital if charities want to make the best use of data – here are a few pointers.

Joe Lepper | 10th Oct 19

Statistics and numbers can be eye catching on their own, but sometimes the presentation of data needs a helping hand.

This is where storytelling becomes a vital skill for charities as they show how their work is having a positive impact on people’s lives.

Above all the human story of charitable work should not be forgotten in awareness raising as charities increasingly take on a story-telling role, in the media, marketing and wider promotional activity.

Here are some key tips on how to use data to tell great stories.

> See also: The best data resources for UK charities

 

Let service users tell the story

The collection, archiving and analysis of data should involve service users where possible. Who better to tell the story than those directly impacted?

Children’s charity Coram is preparing such an ambitious move. It has received National Lottery funding for a data project, involving the archiving of its records dating back as far as 1739. This already plans to tell fascinating, historical stories of supporting children.

But the charity has taken this project further by ensuring the children it currently supports are involved in this data collection.

Young people will use the historical letters included to write their own letters on issues of public interest. They will also be involved in creating a display linking their own lives to the day to day routine of the charity’s early work that the data shows. A film from the data’s findings is also being planned, as Coram turns this already interesting historical data  initiative into a major project for its current service users to be part of.

 

Think visually

Data should be eye catching and user friendly, so that the story a charity wants to tell is easily accessible.

Maps can be a good way of doing this, allowing users the chance to help input, present and use data via geographic filters and visuals.

The Utley Foundation is among charitable organisations to realise this with the creation of its musical map of dementia via its Music for Dementia 2020 website. Rather than simply collecting then listing available music groups, the Foundation is providing users with an interactive map showing where their local group is, in a visually engaging way.

See Around Britain and Europe uses interesting and useful imagery to convey its accessibility data

Another to use this visual map technique is See Around Britain and See around Europe, the charity travel website that has been collecting data from users to create a comprehensive disability travel information service. This is online and available via an app and includes service users reviews and photos to present this data as a compelling story about disability access and travel.

 

Charity-wide story telling

The Charity Digital Skills Report 2019 showed widespread enthusiasm within charities for making greater use of data.

This found that 59% want to make more effective use of data, 67% want to use it to increase their impact and 48% to use it to improve the way they deliver services.

Use this enthusiasm to make sure all your staff and volunteers look at data as a way to tell stories within awarenss and fund raising efforts.

 

Make data technology the story itself

Collecting and analysing data is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Why not show the wider public how such technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence, are ensuring charities can use data to make a difference?

A good example is Huddersfield-based food bank The Welcome Centre, which last month promoted its link up with data support organisation DataKind UK to build a machine learning model to predict which of the centre’s clients are likely to become increasingly dependent on its support.

This helps the charity identify those most in need and raise awareness of its work through story telling promotion on video and online.

 

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