I had the following exchange with the representative of a nonprofit looking for help on an online network.
She: I'm on the board of a small Friends of Trails organization that is setting up online giving with Bloomerang. The giving form creator requires me to provide an impact statement for every different giving level. Our main activities to date are 1) advocating for public trail funding, and 2) building a community of trail lovers through events and social media. I'm having trouble coming up with different impact statements that tie back to donation amounts.
Me: Since you reached out beyond your organization for input, I'm curious whether you had this conversation within your organization and its current supporters?
She: Yes, we've had a board conversation. Either members didn't have ideas or suggested tricking the system to leave these fields blank.
Me: Another thought, how would the people who benefit from your organization's work describe "impact?"
She: Great question! Will interview some folks.
There are some significant learnings here.
First, one's nonprofit benefits from a vivid, ongoing connection to the people for whom it exists, and this needs to be more than an afterthought.
Next the our understandably inquisitive board member would do well to also look into any results that could be associated with what she describes as the organization's main activities.
The reason I emphasized first things last in the title of this piece reflects my ongoing concern about a malady that besets so many nonprofits. It presents itself time and again when a given organization emphasizes its activities, as was the case in the above example, rather than giving at least equal time to any results legitimately connected to such activities. It's almost as if people around nonprofits feel like anyone paying attention to them should be impressed because they are busy. Busy ain't the half of it. Busy and effective is the story you want to be able to tell.