Nonprofit Board Reports: Eight Expert Tips for Showing Maximum Impact
As the director of a nonprofit organization, you fully appreciate the importance of knowing how to produce an effective and impactful nonprofit board report — one that proves to your funders and grantors how much success your programming has had. Because when it comes to large funders such as foundations and even government organizations, the decision to support your organization is largely rational and data-driven. As such, each nonprofit board report you write should be clear, accurate and engaging. To help you in this endeavor, here are eight expert tips for showing maximum impact:
TIP 1: Use a clear, repeatable structure.
Funders and grantors are busy. They don’t have time to try to find their way around unwieldy, disorganized documents. That’s why your nonprofit board report should always follow a logical and clear structure that you can easily repeat for future reports. Keep in mind that if your report is longer than two or three pages, it can be helpful to include a cover sheet that lists where key content is located. That way, readers can easily navigate to the information they’re looking for.
TIP 2: Keep the purposes of the report in mind.
The nonprofit board report has two main purposes. First, it needs to inform your funders as to how their money is being used and show them their return on investment. In other words, it should demonstrate that their money is being put to good use to further your organization’s mission, whether that’s providing medical aid for underserved communities or rescuing abandoned and mistreated animals. And second, it should encourage your funders to continue to donate money to your organization so you can continue your good work.
TIP 3: Provide context.
Even though your readers are familiar with your organization’s mission, they might not be aware of the programs you’re currently running. For this reason, it can be helpful to provide a one- to two-paragraph introduction that provides some context for your current initiatives. When writing this introduction, try to answer the question, “Why is this specific program important to our mission?” Make sure that you include the most basic information that your grantors need to know to get a comprehensive overview of what programs are active and how they support your nonprofit’s mission.
TIP 4: Keep the nonprofit board report high-level.
Don’t overload funders with the day to day minutiae of your organization’s operations. They don’t need to know how many people have subscribed to your newsletter in the past three months or whether an intern is doing well. While these things are very important for the successful running of the nonprofit, that type of data is only useful to you, your managers and staff. Your funders need high-level information about your programs that allows them to make informed decisions about providing financial support.
TIP 5: Make the report objective and data-driven.
It’s only logical that many nonprofit directors feel very strongly about their organization’s mission and programs. Nevertheless, when it comes to the status and results of your programs, your nonprofit board report cannot be subjective and written from your perspective. It has to be objective and data-driven in order for your funders to make educated decisions.
TIP 6: Include performance metrics.
Measuring the impact of your programs is best done by using performance metrics. Of course, exactly what these are will depend on your organization’s mission and the specific programs that are currently active.
For example, one of our clients, a nonprofit that provides more than 35 different services to the Jewish community in one of our country’s largest cities, uses the following performance metrics (among others):
Another client, an organization that provides oversight of services on behalf of a state’s Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, uses these performance metrics:
TIP 7: Use charts and graphs to illustrate.
Research shows that data is often more easily interpreted and remembered when it’s visualized. That’s why it can be helpful to include numerical information in the form of charts and graphs. Some of the more powerful nonprofit software solutions have report-generating features that enable you to create charts and graphs from selected data sets.
TIP 8: End with a projection for the future.
Don’t simply end the report after presenting the status quo. Instead, include a realistic projection for the future of your programs. Explain whether programs will be continued, expanded or discontinued — and why. For example, perhaps you want to expand a successful program in order to serve more people. In addition, if you’re planning to start new programs, include a brief description of each, as well as a factual motivation as to how it will support your mission.
All things considered, your nonprofit board report should accurately and objectively inform your funders about how successful you are at putting their money to good use — and of course, inspire them to keep supporting your organization. If you keep the above points in mind, you will be able to write an objective, engaging report with substance. And that means that you’ll stand the best possible chance of making a lasting impact regarding your organization’s work that will help you keep your founders and grantors for the long term.
Are you having trouble finding the data you need to show your true impact on your board reports?
At Provisio Partners, we believe you need to use nonprofit software that generates accurate, comprehensive reports on everything from case management to volunteer management. Our Birdseye platform, powered by Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM, can be completely customized to your organization’s reporting needs and provides robust case management features. It’s available for free as a part of Provisio Partners’ services.
If you’d like to learn more about whether Provisio Partners is right for your organization, schedule a free consultation today.