Four Ways to “Storify” Your Data
nonprofit management tips

Your organization has data on how it achieves its mission. Stakeholders want to be engaged with stories of the work your organization is doing. The trick is finding a way to convert the information that you have on hand into something that will captivate potential stakeholders.

Lori Silverman, owner of Partners for Progress, discussed how to make that leap during her presentation, “Facts Tell, Stories Sell: Storifying Data to Make Your Point,” during the American Society of Association Executives’ Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Fla. During her presentation, Silverman shared four story structures organizations can use to convert information into stories:

1. Follow the PARLAS structure. PARLAS begins by presenting the problem (P), working your way through action (A) to solve the problem, show what the result (R) was, what was learned (L) in the process, how that applies (A) to today, and ends with suggestions (S) for your audience;

2. Wrap a deductive argument into a story. Set the context first and explain the problem or conflict. Then run deductively through steps needed to reach the solution, leading to your key message. Deductively refers to explaining how, in order to do W, steps X, Y, and Z needed to be taken;

3. The Butler did it! Used by Steven. D Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner as a means of explaining the drop in U.S. crime rate during the 1970s, this approach begins with placing the beginning of the story in context complete with characters and a problem before moving through the data. Instead of explaining the top reason for the crime drop, the authors proposed several possible reasons — following each with whether it could have been the true reason — before finally ending with the true reason and their interpretation; and,

4. Vision story. Take stakeholders through a world in which transformative changes have already taken place. Craft your story around what accomplishing the mission looks and feels like and compare and contrast the future to what the climate is now or what it has been along with an urgency for change.