The utilization of stories of change stands in contrast to the conventional writing of reports, which emphasizes program implementation with supporting data and findings during implementation. On the other hand, stories of change prioritize the persuasion of a program’s potential to build empathy and trigger collaboration. These stories of change are designed to highlight the positive changes that emerge following interventions or programs carried out by philanthropic and non-profit institutions. They serve as a valuable approach to monitoring, evaluating, measuring progress, and demonstrating changes that occur over a certain period. In addition, stories of change represent one of the strategies employed to build engagement with the community, accentuating the potential of the program to stimulate collaboration and effectively campaign for positive changes that benefit the beneficiaries of the interventions that have been undertaken.
Regarding this background, Filantropi Indonesia and Re.Search collaborated and organized a series of capacity-building activities to strengthen organizational resiliency. Philanthropy Skill Development (PSD) #21, entitled the ‘Story of Change for Increasing Organization Exposure and Impact’, was the final topic of this series. The event was attended by 22 participants who joined this two-day workshop virtually via Zoom Cloud Meeting.
The PSD #21 webinar commenced with opening remarks from Filantropi Indonesia’s Program and Communication Manager, Dinda Sonaloka. She emphasized the importance of change stories in communicating an organization’s vision, building trust, encouraging support and involvement, and creating organizational identity and branding. As she stated, the stories of change were not merely narratives but strategic tools that can shape perceptions, motivate, and help non-profit organizations achieve their goals more effectively. The relevance of such tools in the current ecosystem cannot be overstated, especially in light of the increasing focus on the impact or measurable changes of the interventions carried out.
During the first day of training, Mariska Estelita, a Communication Practitioner for Civil Society Organizations, expounded on the significance of stories of change in increasing exposure and organizational impact. The use of a story of change has a pivotal role in building engagement with the target audience using an emotional approach. Additionally, the story of change can open up opportunities for collaboration with other organizations or stakeholders, particularly for replication.
However, despite the potential benefits of utilizing stories of change, non-profit organizations faced several challenges in writing them. One of the primary challenges was that many organizations have numerous achievements but are hesitant to express these successes in an easy-to-understand story. Furthermore, non-profit organizations still needed to be more willing to invest significantly in communication strategies, particularly in communicating the impact of projects. It was not uncommon to encounter differences in perception between team members regarding the importance of communication strategies for the organization, making it challenging to convey them in a story of change.
Writing a compelling story of change can be challenging. However, several critical elements should be addressed, including photos, data, and quotes. Images serve as an essential supporting element in capturing readers’ attention and encouraging them to visualize the impact of the change. To strengthen the narrative, data should be presented in a comparative format, highlighting the contrast between the pre and post-intervention conditions. Finally, including beneficiary quotes can provide a first-hand account of how the organization’s project has transformed lives.
In addition, Mariska proposed several tips for crafting a successful story of change, including organizing a discussion between the writer and program teams to identify critical achievements and minimizing the use of statistics and numerical data. Instead, the focus should be on ensuring that the data presented significantly contributes to the impact of the resulting change. Adopting a holistic view of the project’s overarching goals is essential, considering the larger picture when building the narrative.
During the second day, the discussion revolved around the outcomes of the change story that had been assigned on the first day. The session culminated with a discourse on promoting written stories of change. Mariska elucidated that the most cost-effective and accessible medium for organizations to promote their stories was through social media. Specifically, she suggested creating a dedicated category for “stories from the field” or “impact” on organizational social media accounts such as websites. The story link could then be disseminated across various social media channels, including Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to drive traffic to the website. Stories of change could also be presented in video format and published on platforms such as YouTube. Furthermore, Mariska recommended using online newsletters in a bimonthly or quarterly format to foster and maintain organizational engagement with the audience.