SROI and Infographics: Using new tools to speak to 21st century American audiences

I got excited about Social Return on Investment when I first spied the Minnesota Mentoring Partnerships’ infographic online a few years ago. Their graphic is simple yet compelling. It tells me a complete story, backed up by hard numbers and hard science, and engages me emotionally (especially because, at the time, I had just had my first child).

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Image Source: Minnesota Mentoring Partnership

This single image opened a door for me. I’ve conducted numerous SROI projects since that time, relying on training and transferable skills from my clinical research experience. However, my company has also included the development of an infographic (led by a marketing professional and graphic designer) as an essential component of every SROI project. I believe the single most influential element of the Minnesota Mentoring Partnership’s entire study—with many kudos to the research team who conducted the study—is the infographic they created. Why?

Infographics are not a passing trend. Younger generations think in infographics. My Facebook and Pinterest pages are full of infographics. Many nonprofits in the U.S. are starting to publish their annual reports as infographics. And that’s because infographics:

  • Are data-driven
  • Condense numerous data points into a single graphically compelling image
  • Chunk those numerous data points into more palatable (i.e. readable) pieces
  • Speak to people who are visual learners (which includes about 65% of the population)
  • Combine appeals to logic and emotions (which drives giving)
  • Are branded (or should be!)
  • Are 30 times more likely to be read than text

(Learn more about why infographics work through, what else, but this infographic from Market Domination Media.)

Nonprofits can disseminate their infographics in multiple ways. Perhaps the easiest, commonsense routes are through social media, website, and other digital channels. However, I witnessed the way Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity used their infographic with excitement. First, they created two infographics: one for distribution to potential donors and one designed for the families they serve. This was authentic to their mission and methods, as they consider their partner families potential donors who may be interested in giving back to the organization in the future. Next, they distributed the infographic and language about it in their annual campaign materials. They have also used the language in grant applications with success. Finally, they presented the infographic in a discussion about SROI at the Habitat International conference this year, where they won acclaim for how this Habitat affiliate from Toledo, Ohio was able to use international best practices to increase stewardship, engage new donors and sponsors, and support partner families. Now that’s compelling!

In the American fundraising environment, where we compete with more than 1.5 million nonprofits doing vital work for vulnerable communities, we must differentiate. SROI projects alone help nonprofits in the U.S. differentiate because so few conduct SROI studies at all. But we also can maximize a nonprofit’s investment in SROI projects by crafting intriguing infographics.

How do you disseminate your SROI results?

By Heather Stombaugh, MBA, CFRE, GPC, Principal Consultant, Just Write Solutions

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