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Data Storytelling Essentials to Help Motivate Volunteers, Staff, and Funders

In an era where data drives decisions, the narratives surrounding the invaluable contributions of volunteers often remain untold or underrepresented. While the significance of volunteers is universally acknowledged, there's a pressing need to convey their impact more effectively.

nonprofit board members meeting, a chart is displayed in the background

Enter data storytelling - a powerful tool that not only quantifies but also qualitatively portrays the difference volunteers make. By harnessing the potential of data storytelling, we can illuminate the profound effects of volunteer work, ensuring their efforts don't just make a difference but are also recognized and celebrated.

This article seeks to illuminate the value of data storytelling in the nonprofit space and the relative ease by which the basic skills can be acquired. Links to resources for learning are also provided.

Recently, I was invited to record a Learning Bite for The Beryl Institute. The talk is free to view and establishes a call to action for leaders of volunteers. "The Power of Data Storytelling: Amplifying the Impact of Volunteers in Healthcare", explores the essence of data storytelling and the value it can bring in sharing the volunteer experience While the context is healthcare, this message is relevant for all leaders of volunteers.

The significance of volunteer work is profound. Yet, measuring their impact has always been a daunting task for institutions. As data emerges as the new universal language, especially in healthcare, its role in capturing and communicating the essence of volunteer impact cannot be ignored.

It's worth noting here that simply sharing data is not the same as telling a story with it. This isn't just about statistics or facts but about interweaving these numbers into a compelling narrative. One that resonates deeply with its audience. Done well, data storytelling distances itself from data showing or data sharing.

Numbers Numb

Merely presenting statistics can be impersonal and might not convey the depth of impact. Expecting stakeholders—be it volunteers, donors, or even staff—to immediately grasp the essence of these numbers is unrealistic. Instead, we need to frame the data in a narrative that resonates.

The ripple effects of effectively communicating impact to volunteers and donors are profound. When volunteers understand the tangible results of their efforts, it fosters a sense of purpose and satisfaction. This fulfillment not only boosts retention rates but also creates ambassadors out of these volunteers. Their positive experiences become testimonies, attracting more like-minded individuals to contribute.

a community group cheers for a successful fundraiser

Similarly, donors, when made aware of the real-world changes their contributions impact, are more likely to continue their support and even amplify it. This creates a virtuous cycle: the more we effectively communicate impact, the more engaged and committed our volunteers and donors become, leading to increased recruitment and sustained contributions. In essence, effective data storytelling doesn't just inform—it motivates, sustains, and grows our community of supporters.

Learn Data Storytelling Essentials to Motivate Volunteers and Funders

Data storytelling is an art, one that combines data with a compelling narrative, making it relatable and inspiring to its audience. With the right approach, we can hone our data communication skills to emphasize the significant role volunteers play in nonprofit organizations.

Learning the art data storytelling isn't as daunting as it might seem. You can create a compelling visual story with a handful of reliable data points, a clear focus and knowledge of the data storytelling essentials that will help you .

Each is a core and relevant component of effective data communication and include: data literacy, data visualization, data narrative, data communication planning, data presentation, and data culture.

For nonprofit leaders, understanding data is just the tip of the iceberg. To truly leverage this data, one must master the ability to transform it into engaging visuals that offer valuable insights. Such visuals not only simplify complex information but also act as tools for in-depth analysis.

Moreover, the ability to communicate these findings effectively is an important one to learn. Data visualization and storytelling can become essential tools in a leader's arsenal, allowing them to weave impactful messages that motivate and inspire.

Mastering the art of data storytelling might seem daunting, but in essence, it revolves around the six essential components. Grasping these can empower anyone to transform mundane statistics into captivating stories.

The most requested Data Storytelling Essentials training that I facilitate is the the one on data visualization. While I prefer leading in-person training, I recognize the value in accessing other modalities of learning. Whether recorded, in-person, online, or in a book, there are many options for learning!

Here are some free and low-cost/high-value resources that I recommend for learning the essential skills of data storytelling:

This is a free professional development webinar hosted by VSys One. It is a recording of Data Storytelling Essentials workshop that has immediately actionable takeaways.

Cover of Data Storytelling Essentials: A Practical Guide to Data Visualization.

I created this online course from my in-person webinar and workshop content. The program comes with the PDF version of the booklet and includes 23 mini-lessons with 16 recorded video segments. Use as a standalone resource or as a complement to webinar or workshop participation.

There are so many insightful, useful books that are relevant to learning data storytelling. I have compiled a short list of those that I have found to be foundational to understanding the essentials of data storytelling.

Plan With Precision

Imagine you lead a nonprofit initiative. You've spent considerable time researching and deeply understanding its mission. Even though you know the details and monitor your program's activities closely, communicating the significance of the volunteers' contributions can be challenging. This difficulty often stems from the approach rather than the effort. It's essential to clearly convey your message to your main stakeholders. The data you gather and how you visually present it should seamlessly match the story you want to tell.

An audience of supporters claps at a presentation

Start with the end goal in mind. Know your purpose. Know your audience. Start your data story where it matters, with knowing your business question. And know who the intended audience is for your data story.

Understanding your audience is key to effective storytelling. For instance, the visuals you use to show the growth in clients benefiting from volunteer activities would be distinct from those highlighting the most effective outreach methods for attracting new donors. Different stories necessitate different visuals.

Your message should be tailored to resonate with the target audience. By establishing a clear strategy, what I refer to as the "precise plan" , you can ensure that the presented data drives action from volunteers, staff, or donors. The good news? There are few distinct frameworks and tools to use, such as the data story arc and the ten types of stories we can narrate using data. Once familiar with data essential tools such as these conveying the desired message becomes much more straightforward.


In summary, data storytelling is a potent tool, capable of reshaping our perceptions about how to motivate volunteers, staff, and funders. By comprehending the audience and customizing the narrative, we can inspire transformative changes.

Effective data storytelling has the power to transform the way we view the experience of our stakeholders in any initiative. By understanding the audience and tailoring the message, leaders can drive meaningful action and inspire change. Harnessing the few distinct narratives within data not only simplifies this task but also amplifies the impact of the story being told, ensuring that every stakeholder recognizes the invaluable role they play.

profile picture of blog author Roseanna Galindo

Roseanna Galindo, ECBA, CAVS

Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right

Roseanna is available for training, keynotes, and executive coaching. Visit for more information.


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