Use Storytelling to Report Nonprofit Outcomes

Nonprofit leaders may tend to associate storytelling with marketing efforts, but creating a narrative for your organization is equally helpful in outcomes measurement for nonprofits. ESC Consultant Barry Seltser breaks down what an organization’s story should include, and how nonprofit leaders can collect the necessary information to build an effective narrative for reporting outcomes.

Whether you are building an annual report targeted to constituents or presenting the outcomes of a particular project to your nonprofit’s board, all narratives must answer the following questions:

  • What is the situation?
  • What did we do?
  • Why did we do this?
  • What happened as a result of what we did?
  • Why does it matter?

The key goal in weaving a narrative for reporting outcomes is to attribute any change or improvement to what you did. The power of storytelling itself will make a greater impact and highlight the true accomplishments of any effort fully, linking your organization’s actions to the outcomes produced.

If your nonprofit is not already practicing storytelling as a part of your outcomes measurement process, you may be at a loss as to where content for such narratives can be found. How do you unlock these stories from wherever they are hiding? According to Barry, nonprofits have a breadth of sources to tap into.

In creating a narrative to report outcomes, nonprofit leaders should ask themselves: Who are my best informants? Who knows about my organization’s ability to help achieve optimal outcomes? In addition, whoever is assigned to interviewing people should consider where and when it is appropriate to approach these “storytellers”. These individuals tasked with asking the questions should consider where targeted interviewees would be most comfortable sharing their experiences, who they would be most comfortable talking to, and how they are most likely to give you the information you need (i.e. over the phone, in person, by email, etc.). While not all story-gathering opportunities can be anticipated, nonprofits should routinely ask for storytelling content during standard procedures such as exit interviews, regular reporting cycles and training sessions.

Has your nonprofit successfully used an organizational narrative to report outcomes? Please comment with success stories, further questions and discussion on this tactic.

ESC of New England offers management consulting and capacity building services in a variety of areas including Outcomes Measurement, Marketing, Strategic Planning and more. Please contact Ulea Lago, Director of Consulting, at for more information. We offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit to all interested nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


Improve Outcomes Measurement with a Logic Model Ladder


Every nonprofit management process needs tools to help organizations maximize their impact. Outcomes measurement is no exception. ESC Consultant Barry Seltser offers the idea of a Logic Model Ladder to help nonprofit leaders better organize their efforts during an outcomes measurement consulting project or everyday meeting.

Outcomes are important to three main components of any nonprofit’s practices: the funders, the organization in general, and you—the nonprofit management professional. Since this idea touches all key aspects of nonprofit organizations, it’s important to understand it. That’s where the Logic Model Ladder comes in. This tool is an excellent way for each individual and operation team tied to your organization to visually comprehend the impact of outcomes. Barry suggests breaking down each program under your organization’s umbrella with the Logic Model Ladder so that all may see four things: the goal of the program (why it exists), inputs and resources (who and what is being invested), activities (what each program is actually doing), and outputs (what is being produced, what services are provides, and what products are offered or delivered).

On the most basic level, the Logic Model Ladder provides a visual of how your organization starts with one set of staff members, funding, knowledge and other concrete entities, and ends with, ideally, increased client knowledge, improved living conditions, an increased capacity to find a job, or a number of other positive outcomes grounded in your organization’s mission.

While the Logic Model Ladder is an incredibly helpful tool to nonprofit organizations, its effectiveness may not be apparent if your organization’s goals and potential outcomes are not defined. If your nonprofit organization could benefit from an Outcomes Measurement consulting project, please contact Ulea Lago, ESCNE Director of Consulting, at or call 617-357-5550 to find out how we can help. ESC of New England offers a 2-hour complimentary assessment visit to all interested nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Setting Targets in Outcomes Measurement

Is outcomes measurement a struggle for your nonprofit organization? Maybe you feel your board and staff have the concept down but could improve with further education.

ESC volunteer consultant Barry Seltser teaches attendees of his workshop, “What Difference are You Making?: Developing and Measuring Outcomes,” that setting targets is a key step in outcomes measurement for nonprofits. Particularly, it is important for nonprofits to identify which ideals are definitely attainable and which goals should be considered reaches.

Targets are so important to outcomes measurement because they can be used to show assessors how the efforts being scrutinized are succeeding or failing.

Outcomes Measurement Blog Photo 2.26.14

In this particular lesson, Barry teaches workshop attendees that both indications of improvements and gaps in progress can be used to create positive outcomes for nonprofits. If goals are being met, nonprofit management professionals should be encouraged to push previously set standards forward; yet if their organization is falling short of its ideals, they may look closer to find out why, and, if necessary, make adjustments to best meet project needs.

ESC of New England provides affordable capacity building and management consulting services to fellow nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.