Quantitative Storytime:
The Tales Your Data Can Tell

Today’s guest blog post is written by Kathryn Schmitt, Data Project Coordinator, PatronManager. 

People love a good story. This is more than a cliche; it’s a fact supported by mountains of research. The human brain responds to stories with increased empathy and attentiveness. When used deliberately in communications, stories can increase engagement and motivate action. So what, exactly, does that have to do with you and your business?

I’ve got news for you: everyone who works at your arts organization or non-profit is a storyteller. Every day, you and your colleagues use different mediums to tell your story. Your marketing department uses social media to tell the story of your mission. Your fundraising department tells the story of your impact through dollar amounts. Your operations department embodies the story of your day-to-day efforts to influence and motivate. Storytelling is everywhere, and it’s crucial to your success.

Stories create emotional connections, which can motivate donors and buyers. Data, on the other hand, proves without question your effectiveness and measured outcomes. But the best and most successful campaigns combine an effective narrative with quantitative data. In other words, you want to engage your listener and offer proof at the same time. Take a look at these three examples:

  • The Southeastern Toy Bank donated nearly 7,000 toys.
  • The Southeastern Toy Bank brought smiles to children in need across the region.
  • The Southeastern Toy Bank has brought smiles to over 3,500 children by donating nearly 7,000 toys to local hospitals and shelters.

The third example illustrates a simple but effective formula; it uses language to tug at the heartstrings, and it also gives context and hard figures which help motivate the reader to act. To utilize your data in storytelling most effectively, choose it wisely! Ask yourself if the piece of data you’re considering will help prove your point. Irrelevant statistics will harm your campaign more than help it. And consider your audience when choosing which data to include. What will they enjoy listening to? What will motivate them to action? It’s also important to remember, a group of theatergoers doesn’t necessarily have the same wants and needs as your board members, so make sure to tailor your data-driven stories towards the people you want coming in your doors. 

Using either storytelling or data to leverage and display your organization’s outcomes is great, but not using the two in tandem is a hugely missed opportunity in your business practices. Combine the two for maximum results and the biggest impact.

Don’t forget that stories aren’t just for you to tell; they are there for you to listen to, as well. Your database tells a story, and the data doesn’t lie. If you use a CRM that houses all of your organization’s activity in one place, then you have a story about every person who lives there. You have stories about those people who always buy tickets to Shakespeare plays, and who always donate at Christmas time. You have a story about the patron who always buys charity raffle tickets and the person who always responds to your end-of-year campaign. These are stories that can help you target your marketing and yield the best results.

In short, your data does you little good if you don’t know how to use it to tell a good story; likewise, your stories aren’t effective without your crucial data to back them up. Utilize your data to be a better storyteller, and you have an instant formula for success.

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