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How to use your evaluation findings to engage external audiences

One of the key principles in Inspiring Impact’s Code of Good Impact Practice (pdf, 496KB) is for organisations to share findings and learning. This takes you beyond an impact culture within your organisation to a collective impact culture with others. It is about celebrating success, reflecting on obstacles, and extending your learning to those who have a shared interest in the impact you’re trying to achieve.

Sharing your evaluation findings can be exciting for you and your organisation. If you have a positive story to tell, it can be a moment of celebration of your achievements and the work you have done. If things haven’t gone as you expected, there is a still a lesson to be shared: what happened, what you learnt, and what you’re going to do next.

1

Decide why

Before getting your evaluation report, blog post or tweets out into the wider world, reflect on what you’re trying to achieve. Whatever your evaluation findings say, be clear about what you want your audience to do next. There are many different reasons why you might want to share your findings, such as:

  • fundraising
  • awareness raising
  • accountability
  • partnership building
  • marketing
  • brand promotion
  • lobbying
  • campaigning.

Your findings – whether positive or negative – could also enhance the collective understanding of an issue and an approach.

The internet is full of content for us to consume; unless your content has purpose, is directed at the intended audience and is in an accessible and appropriate format, it will easily get lost. Even with a good story to tell, getting attention is difficult.

2

Choose your audience

Whatever medium you’re using to share your findings, there is no shortage of potential targets, such as:

  • funders
  • donors
  • the public
  • supporters
  • internal stakeholders
  • beneficiaries
  • policymakers
  • decision-makers
  • sector partners – maybe even competitors.

These different groups need your findings presented differently – in style, message and action. The team at Charity Comms reminds us that ‘you are not your target audience’ – so don’t speak in language that only you will understand. 

It is worth exploring some of the more sophisticated targeting that is possible with social media, email lists, and advertising. Using this approach, you can be more specific with your message. Sending tailored emails to a specific demographic of your supporters may make the response more effective. Focused adverts on social media can signpost the most likely potential supporters to your cause.

3

Tell a story

Our world is story based. Everyone loves hearing a good story and the most powerful are those that connect emotionally with those listening. Choosing the types of finding you want to share and aligning those with your audience will increase the likelihood of your findings resonating.

With external audiences, the public narrative technique created by Marshall Ganz – the professor who created Obama’s 2008 grassroots election campaign – offers a powerful framework for taking your audience on a journey. Practical Action produced a short summary (pdf, 210KB) of the technique, and for more on storytelling see our guide on telling your impact story.

4

Create a call to action

Telling a good story using your evidence isn’t just about advertising your achievements: it can be used to mobilise your supporters into action. Take a look at these powerful personal stories and this film showcasing the work of Comic Relief. Through short films, they tell the real-life stories of the difference they’ve made to motivate people to donate, volunteer their time, and be involved in social action.

Whether you’re sharing evidence of achieving your outcomes, disseminating learning, or strengthening your organisational position in the sector, your story can be a call to action.

  • If you’re fundraising, highlighting the difference you’ve made may encourage others to fund your work.
  • If you’re trying to achieve policy change, showcasing your lobbying successes can encourage others to join your campaign.
  • If you provide services, you might be using the number of people accessing your services as evidence of a problem that needs addressing.
  • If you’ve piloted something new, your evidence can persuade commissioners or funders to continue or scale-up your idea across the country.

Make your audience care, help them understand the difference they can make, and give them something tangible to do. 

5

Get the media coverage your charity deserves

In recent years, trust in charities and voluntary organisations has decreased because of a few high-profile cases. This has led organisations to be more open, transparent and accountable. Your evaluation findings can not only improve the trust and confidence the public have in charities, they can put the spotlight on a problem, the solutions you’re adopting, and how things can change.

Constructive Voices is a programme that links national journalists with charities doing innovative work to get their story heard in the mainstream media. This isn’t about making everyone feel good: it is about demonstrating the value of your work, through evidence, and articulating to a wider audience how you are responding to the urgent challenges our society faces. Read more about Constructive Voices and sign up

6

Make it engaging

A whole range of free tools, explanatory videos, and multiple routes can help you get your message across. Beyond the well-known channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – there are some great ways to bring your content to life, most for free, for example:

  • Canva is a great tool for designing and infographics
  • Storify enables you to easily collect lots of different content to present
  • Podbean gives you hosting to broadcast your story to the world
  • data dashboards – like the Rule of Law Index visualisation – give the power over to the reader to play with your findings and compare what is interesting to them.

Read more in our guide to using creative reporting formats for evaluation.

7

Be honest

Being honest about things that haven’t gone well might not feel like a celebration. But it is a vital aspect of how we collectively deliver better projects and services. Sharing your findings – even when things haven’t gone well – is staying true to the evaluation and maintaining its, and your, integrity.

Honesty can feel in conflict with what feels best for your organisation: how can sharing what went wrong be good for us? You want to promote a positive message and image of your organisation, but you also need the learning from your experience to be shared. Though it remains anonymous, the Admitting Failure project from Engineers without Borders is an excellent example of fostering a culture where mistakes are learnt from rather than hidden away.

Further information

This how-to was contributed by NCVO Charities Evaluation Services and produced as part of Inspiring Impact – a UK-wide collaborative programme supporting a focus on impact in the voluntary sector.

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Page last edited Jul 28, 2017 History

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