Sharing statistics usually accomplishes one of two things - proves your point or loses your audience. I L💗VE using statistics to make an impact. The goal is to make people think “wow”. Depending on the point you’re trying to make you want them to either think “wow that’s a lot” or “wow that’s not very much” or “wow that’s almost the same”. How do you do that? (1) Keep the stats close together in the content. (2) Try to make it as apples to apples as possible. (3) Translate the stat into terms they can understand. (4) Give them a visual. 👈That’s for extra credit! Let’s take the next 10 min to talk through a few examples.

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Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

5 Tips (With Examples) for Using Statistics to Tell a Story

Sharing statistics usually accomplishes one of two things - proves your point or loses your audience. I L💗VE using statistics to make an impact. 

The goal is to make people think “wow”.  Depending on the point you’re trying to make you want them to either think “wow that’s a lot” or “wow that’s not very much” or “wow that’s almost the same”.

How do you do that?

  1. Keep the stats close together in the content.
  2. Try to make it as apples to apples as possible.
  3. Translate the stat into terms they can understand.
  4. Give them a visual.  👈That’s for extra credit!

Let’s take the next 10 min to talk through a few examples.

How do you craft statistics into a story that shares the purpose and need that your nonprofit has with your donors, especially during this year-end giving season? Great question. 

Recently I did some Facebook Lives on my Nonprofit Marketing with Purpose Facebook Group. If you haven't joined, you should totally give it a whirl. As we did the Craft Your Ask Fundraising Challenge in October on that Facebook Group, I realized that there were a lot of people who were definitely working with statistics in their fundraising asks, but there's kind of an art form to using them in a way that allows them to make sense for people and tells a story that you want them to learn from your messaging.

via GIPHY

[caption: Statistics are an artform]

I L💗VE using statistics to make an impact.  Sharing statistics usually accomplishes one of two things - proves your point or loses your audience. If you share too many you’ll overwhelm people. If you don’t share them in an easy way to consume you’ll miss the opportunity to make the impact you’re going for.

The goal is to make people think “wow”. Depending on the point you’re trying to make you want them to either think “wow that’s a lot” or “wow that’s not very much” or “wow that’s almost the same”.

How do you do that? Here’s a rundown:

  1. Keep the stats close together in the content. Or remind them of the one you listed earlier if you are going to list one for comparison.
  2. Try to make it as apples to apples as possible.
  3. Tell them the change you want them to know as concisely as possible to make your point after sharing the change in data. Like a % change they can understand without thinking.
  4. SHOW THEM. Give them a visual. Think infographic or chart. Then they can SEE it. Put a caption under the graphic and give it a title so if they don’t read the content they will absolutely get the point.

Keep stats close together.

The first thing to remember with your statistics is to keep your statistics close together in your content. Or, remind them of one that you listed earlier if you're going to list one for comparison. Because we've all read that book where they talk about something then you're like, “wait a second”, and you have to page back multiple pages to find the first thing that they were talking about to compare it, make sure that it's right AND you understand it. 

We don't want our readers to have to do that. We want to make it very clear to them. 

Thank you to the Spay Neuter Project because I'm going to use your stuff as an example. 

“In 2020, Spay Neuter Project has already completed 2,196 spay neuter surgeries, even though we were closed for almost all of April. For three months, we did not have a full-time veterinary surgeon. For the same period in 2019, we completed 2,307 surgeries."

When I used those stats far apart, it's hard to see the real impact.  Instead I can move them closer together, for example, “In 2020, we did 2,196 surgeries so far compared to 2,307 in all of 2019.” 

Make it 🍎’s to 🍎’s.

Next, look at those exact same numbers and try to make it as apples to apples as possible. We want to use these numbers to really communicate what we want people to hear.

In this case, I feel like we could take the numbers and spin them into a monthly average:

“In 2019, we did an average of 192 surgeries per month. While in 2020, we performed an average of 244 surgeries per month.”

When you make those numbers a little bit smaller, they're easier to consume. 

via GIPHY

Communicate the change concisely.

Think through the data and change it to be as concise as possible. I would definitely still share the number of surgeries per month, because that's the base of the fact that we're trying to share. 

Now we want to drive it home by giving them a percentage. A percentage is super easy for them to think about, because then they don't have to do math in their head. Because I'm not a good mathematician. 

Ask yourself, how big of a difference is that? I don't just mean 100 versus 200, I’m talking a percentage that they can understand. 

“In 2019, we did an average of 192 surgeries per month. While in 2020, we performed an average of 244 per month. That is a 27% monthly increase.”

See how you didn't have to think about that?

Give a visual.

Next I want you to give them a visual, because you can give them a visual even in your letters (think charts or an infographic). Then they can see it, and don't even have to think about the numbers. 

You can say it, but if you can show them and put a caption underneath the graphic, they’ll still get your point even if they never read your paragraph. Also, give the chart or infographic a title so that way they know what you're talking about.

If your ask is a little bit long in your letter (let's say four or five paragraphs), then this graphic will draw their attention right there and show them that need right away. Just like the graph below did to you did now. 😀

Tell them why it matters.

Lastly, I want you to show them why the numbers matter. One of the things that made the Spay Neuter Project’s pitch really interesting was they not only had an increase of surgeries, but they have also had an increase in cost for supplies. So each surgery costs them more money. That's a big deal! 

Not only are they understaffed, but now they're being asked to do more work, and it costs them more money. That means that really, in the long run, they're not going to be able to help as many animals because of the cost and because of staffing. Which ultimately means more pets will be on the street because less will be spayed or neutered. 

So pulling in that cost aspect...that's why the numbers matter. Spell it all out for your audience, because they may not connect the dots without your help. 

Conclusion

Hopefully that gives you a little bit of “Monica insight” on sharing statistics. I work through statistics for every presentation that I do. And I really just keep looking at them and I think to myself, “do they make sense?” Then I’ll also put it all together and I'll let it sit for a day or two. Then I go back to it and look at it again. If I don't right away go, “Whoa”...then they're not ready yet. 

And now you can do the same thing. 😊


Check out the video we made about this very topic!

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