Reporting Impact and Communicating to Grant Funders.

Sade Dozan

Sade Dozan is a witness to the power collective voice has in transforming narratives and shifting culture..... Read More

The previous post outlined the primary types of capacity-building projects and reviewed how transformational successful capacity-building implementation have been, for example, nonprofits. In this post, we’ll delve into reporting as well as the need for positive and open lines of communication with funders. 

Nonprofits, as public charities, are subject to investment from both public and private sources. Institutions (such as foundations and corporations) are examples of private sources of support necessary to nonprofits sustainable funding. Let’s say your organization has done a large amount of the work, and you just received your grant award! Beyond implementing the program, communicating with funders is key to ensuring you maintain good standing with their organization.

Much of institutional giving is based on the promises you are making to these sources (your proposed programming/services, deliverables, etc.) however, equally important, is how you communicate with founders on your progress. There are the two main types of open communication with funders: formal reporting and relationship-building moments.

Formal Reporting are updates given through either Interim Reporting or Impact Reports. They are often requested by each funder and have guidelines on what they should entail (typically sent in the same packet with the award letter/agreement). 

Interim Reports are updates that support the promised deliverables made to funders (how you’d use the funds). Even for general operating grants, updates to funders—or interim reports—are a necessary part of stewardship (aka maintaining positive relationships with funders which furthers ensure they continue to give/renew). 

Funding/Impact Reports are distributed to funders at the close of the grant period (typically 1-2 years, however, longer grant periods exist). They are a report back to funders on the full scope of work you’ve accomplished with their funding and a direct assessment of deliverables and key outcomes that were promised.  

Both of these reporting styles should have qualitative and quantitative examples that compare the progress you’re making to the deliverables you stated you would achieve. Things to detail in the more formal report include indicators of learnings, ways you improved the program, successes, and even challenges that explain where deficits occurred, and solutions you created to offset the barriers to success/implementation. This communication method leans more data driven, leveraging the quantitative efforts of your organization against the key outputs you stated that you would achieve within the initial proposal. 

Relationship-Building Moments are more informal updates within the stewardship process. This can take place in the form of phone calls to funders, emails, newsletter shares, and sometimes invitations to visit your program (when applicable/safe). 

One thing I must stress is that you can’t steward an ‘institution.’ You can only really form a bond and reputation with an individual (or group of individuals) at the foundation/corporation. These individuals, through updates, and phone calls, and ‘face- time’ begin to transition from funders to champions of your work. By communicating small victories throughout your grant period, you are showing an institution’s representative that your organization was a worthy investment, and that your impact is rippling beyond their initial grant distribution. This allows a program officer/funder to get to know you (and the organization you represent). Through your touchpoints they learn what your organization stands for at it’s core, beyond the outputs and outcomes outlined in the formal grant and impact reporting. 

The series of relationship-building moments that you share with a funder weave a fuller picture of your organization’s ability to carry out it’s mission. These are moments you share that bring the funder into the fold. When you steward an individual (whether they be an institution representative or even an individual donor) you are inviting them to join your organization and become a part of the greater movement. Ask them what they think about key moments in your organization, invite them to join strategy conversations, or simply just share articles that are relevant to your joint efforts. 

Positive relationships are at the root of institutional giving; and reporting is at the core of how you communicate with funders. Feel good moments and updates are necessary to sprinkle in so that you maintain an open line of communication with funders. A blend of both formal communication style, and a more organic and intentional approach are necessary to ensure that you maintain good standing with a funder.  Funding institutions are run by people! So, it’s important to build positive relationships with those people. 

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