How nonprofits use research effectively to drive positive change in attitudes and behaviors. Julianne Nichols, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, shares an inside look on how their foundation’s approach can serve as a compelling example. The emphasis is on the importance of continuous, strategic, and multi-channel efforts to change attitudes and drive action. Julianne emphasizes the long-term commitment needed to shift public perceptions about foster care adoption and the critical role of storytelling in this process.

Julianne begins by emphasizing the importance of research in shaping public perceptions and attitudes towards foster care adoption. She cites several examples, such as their Adoption and Foster Care Attitude Survey, which reveals that 30% of the public believe that teenagers in foster care can fend for themselves without the support of a permanent family. This finding drives the organization to leverage storytelling through public service announcements and other channels to humanize the issue and challenge misconceptions.

An important quote from Julianne highlights the power of storytelling: “What we have really found is that a storytelling approach is among the most powerful tools in your toolbox.” She explains how sharing personal stories of adopted children and adoptive parents changes minds and inspires action.

Additionally, she discusses how research informs the development of programs like Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which demonstrates through rigorous evaluation that children referred to the program are up to three times more likely to be adopted, leading to the scaling of this initiative.

This lively fast-paced conversation also touches on the cost and time associated with research, highlighting that it varies widely based on the complexity and scope of the study, and why external research partners are considered crucial when research results will inform policy decisions or public claims.