Good reporting can be complex and costly, but it is necessary to make your organisation stand out. These 5 simple principles will help even the smallest charity to achieve cut-through
By Zofia Sochanik
We are living in a world saturated with good causes, emotive stories of social need and increasing demands on funders and philanthropists. Are smaller charities going to be able to keep up with larger charities, and their ability to satisfy the new philanthropists’ desire to be fully informed and to make a meaningful contribution within their financial limits? The answer is simple: yes they are.
In each organisation I have worked with, large or small, impact reporting has always been a discussion point. During my 10 years as a major donor fundraiser, I have learnt that impact isn’t just about sharing positive outcomes with stakeholders, or explaining how you spend a donor’s money. It's also about learning about your organisation, understanding your beneficiaries and being able to show the long-term effects of the work you do. It's about collectively learning what is and what isn't working, and evolving to provide the maximum positive effect on your beneficiaries.
I have been involved with a small charity called Child’s i Foundation for over a year now, and I believe this is a charity that understands how to show impact without spending huge resources on it. Underpinning its impact reporting are 5 key principles, which I believe will help any small charity achieve the same success:
1. Get to know your supporters
The advantage of being small is that you have the ability to get to know your supporters better, to send personal emails that thank them for their contribution, whatever the donation size and to ask them why they chose you. Child’s i Foundation spends time finding out who supports them, what they value about the work and what their philanthropic motivations are, allowing the charity to tailor the communications with their donors effectively.
2. Have a clear purpose and defined aims
Ensure your communications always remind the donors of the charity’s purpose and long-term goal. Child's i Foundation uses its newsletters and social media to remind donors why it exist, creating emotive and engaging stories and sharing them in easy, bitesize moments – for example this video showing the wider impact of the training they are giving.
3. Relate outcomes to your long-term goal
Recently, Child's i Foundation had a huge milestone moment closing the babies’ home that many of the donors helped to build. The newsletter not only reported the milestone, it also told the emotional story of how they got there, why it was happening and what this closure meant in the long-term to abandoned children in Uganda. It was an inspirational piece of impact reporting, so simple but effective. They were taking their donors on the journey to their common goal of a family for every child.
4. Be honest
Part of bringing your donors with you is about telling honest stories about lessons learned. In some of Child's i Foundation's communications, you will hear the story of good but misguided intentions. The honesty of the CEO and founder is refreshing, and the donors are able to learn and develop with the organisation.
5. Create trust
Consistent, honest, human storytelling and real-time news sharing will help you maintain a community of supporters that trust you. Your donors will believe they are creating the change they set out to, and that they are getting value for money. Most importantly, they will feel connected to the lives they are changing.
It may seem simple, but impact reporting is about honest, open communication with your donors. Impact reports need to engage, inform and inspire, and by following the simple steps above you can do this without having to spend fortunes on glossy magazines, pie charts and SROI commissioning!
Zofia Sochanik is a freelance fundraiser and philanthropy advisor