Expressing Your Organizational Value: Describing Value

It’s a necessity for organizations to have the know-how to properly articulate organizational value. For your social enterprise, this means showing accountability to investors by demonstrating the value of your work and the resulting impact on the community. Do this properly, and it can lead to a dramatic increase in the level of support for your social enterprise. The difficulty is, however, that social enterprises often find it challenging to express social benefits in a clear and compelling way.

There are various approaches you can take to ensure you’re successful in expressing your value to others. In this three-part series, we’re examining three methods you can rely on when demonstrating your organizational value: describing value, quantifying value and monetizing value. Today, we’re taking a closer look at what we mean when we say “describing value.”

Describing Your Organizational Value

Describing your impact involves using words to demonstrate your value, and is often complemented with stories, quantitative information and monetized estimates of value. It includes both describing what you’re doing and why it makes a difference. Some important questions to answer when describing value include:

  • What is the key information about the operating context for your enterprise that makes your work meaningful? If your enterprise’s story is in the foreground, what is in the background?
  • How does your social enterprise meet a community need and contribute to social and environmental change? What is the extent of this change? The nature of this change? The nuances of this change? What are the goals and expectations of your social enterprise, and what is your progress towards them?
  • How does your social enterprise add value when compared with a ‘standard’ enterprise relative to public or non-profit models that seeks to address similar social and/or environmental objectives?
  • How has your social enterprise contributed to innovation in strategies to meet community needs, and create social and environmental change?

How do you engage your audience when describing these details? By creating a compelling story!

Using Storytelling to Describe Organizational Value

Storytelling is an increasingly widespread tool for organizations to capture the hearts and minds of their different stakeholders. It can greatly enhance “information” – whether it’s in the form of numbers or factual information about your activities. Many charities and non-profits have found success sharing information via Facebook timeline, or through the creation of infographics. Once data is transformed into something visual, suddenly it becomes increasingly interesting and memorable.

A great example is this website from the South East Vancouver neighbourhood of South Hill. It draws in the viewer through an interactive collection of personal narratives, enhancing the significant details of the neighbourhood. Thanks to Alexandra Tudose for sharing this great website with us!

Organizational narratives and aspects of change are often known by the people within your social enterprise. Storytelling can bring out this knowledge and communicate it in a compelling way to others, particularly for social change that is often complex and difficult to capture in other ways.

Here are two of our favourites resources about effective use of storytelling:

Community Foundations of Canada. The Storied Organization: Communicating Value, Inviting Caring, Celebrating Success. This resource elaborates on the ins and outs of storytelling in the voluntary sector: What is a story? What can it do for your organization? How can you capture and save a story? And, how should a story be told?  

Rick Davies and Jess Dart. The Most Significant Change (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use. This resource explains the MSC Technique, a method of collecting and systematically choosing stories to understand impact. Even though this resource is developed for international development projects, we like it because it outlines some wonderful ways in which to capture an select stories (see Step 4: Collecting SC Stories).

Check back next week to learn more about our second method of expressing value: quantifying value!

blog type: 
Issues & Ideas