Marie Palacios will explain what donors want to know, why it is crucial, and how to share your past achievements, so donors contribute to your future goals.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Marie, I got 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Marie: Absolutely.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon everybody, good morning if you’re on the West Coast I guess, just barely made it to the morning. And if you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are. We are here to talk about reporting impact, specifically creating tools and some good processes to do that for your donors. I’m so excited you’re all here, appreciate the full room especially as we get close to year-end season. But we’re going to have some fun over the next hour or so, for sure. I’m Steven, over here at Bloomerang, as always moderating our discussion today.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording, as well as the slides, later on this afternoon. So, if you have to leave early, you just want to review the content later on, share with a friend or a colleague, don’t worry, we will get all that good stuff in your hands later on today. You should have it by dinner time, that’s my promise to you. But most importantly, we love for these sessions to be interactive, so feel free to chat in your questions and comments along the way. We’re going to try to save a little bit of time for Q&A at the end, but don’t be shy about that. There’s a chat box and a questions box. If you use the questions box, it might be a little bit easier to call out your question, but we’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself, if you haven’t already, we’d love to know who you are, where you’re from, what you’re hoping to get out of the session. But we’d love to hear from you. You can tweet us. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well. But don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year, usually about 50 sessions throughout the year. We love doing them, bring on great guest, speakers, totally free, totally educational. Today is by no means an exception. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond our webinars, I would invite you to check us out because we are a provider of donor-management software, that’s what Bloomerang is. And all kinds of information on our website, you can watch videos, get a really good sense of what we have to offer. So, if you’re curious, check that out. We would love for you to do that.

But don’t do that right now because I’m excited about this one. Our guest today came highly recommended from someone I’ve known and trusted for many, many years, Marie Palacios is joining us from beautiful Western North Carolina, as she was saying before. Marie, how are you doing? You doing okay? Staying warm?

Marie: Absolutely. I won’t say “warm” but I’ll say we are enjoying some great fall weather here.

Steven: That’s good, it’s beautiful. I was just out there last month, I was saying the leaves were turning and . . . dang, this is a great topic, this is so timely as people are, you know, perhaps getting annual reports together. You know, impact is always good for year end. So I’m so thrilled that you’re able to join us.

If you all don’t know Marie, she is the lead consultant over at Funding for Good. If you don’t know Funding for Good, their principal, Mandy Pearce, has been on our webinar series many, many times over the last few years, recommended Marie as her top expert. And from everything I can tell, I’ve had a peek at the presentation, you all are in for a treat. Marie . . . one of my favorite things about our guests is she’s been in her shoes, right, she’s been an ED, she’s been not just a consultant but also has worked for and with nonprofits directly, which is great, over two decades. She’s also certified by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, in the USA, for facilitation. So, obviously, going to be a really great presenter for you. So, Marie, thank you so, so much for doing this. This is going to be a real treat for the community. So I’m going to stop sharing so that you can bring up those beautiful slides we were just looking at. But the floor is yours, my friend.

Marie: Wonderful. Let me move over to the screen, share, all these chats are popping up and I’m seeing them on the screen. So let me navigate around that. All right. Well, thank you so much. It is a pleasure to be here. And, as I was sharing earlier, we usually teach this in person over a period of two to three hours, so, you all are getting the, what we’ll call, the boot-camp version of “Measure of Success.” I know I speak fast. The great thing is is that Bloomerang is going to make this available for you as recording, and anything you see on the screen will show up in your inbox in the form of a PDF. So I know that question is going to pop up a lot in the chat as people continue to join throughout the hour but we’re going to jump right in. We welcome your questions. I will be moving at a nice clip and I will be, at the end of the webinar, sharing some free resources. So, if there was anything that piqued your interest or you said, “Oh my goodness, I would love more information about this particular area,” we can point you in the right direction for that.

So we’re going to dive in. Mandy is on the left of your screen, and I am on the right. We have been working together for over 20 years, and love traveling across the country. We’ll be in California in January, we just left. We’ll be in Wyoming, in Colorado, and Florida over the coming months to do strategic planning and development work with nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. So perhaps we’ll see some of you. But if not, this is a great way for us to connect in a safe and educational space.

So we have several different topics today and the four . . . well, five areas of conversation revolve around, “What is impact reporting? Why is it important?” You know, we’re going to talk a little bit about how SMART goals drive impact reporting processes. Segmenting data, what does that mean and what are some of the ways we might do that. We’re not going to give you a deep dive into the systems because every system has their own way, but there are things like Bloomerang and other systems that we’ll share that you can reach out. We’ve got some tools, questions to ask, and things like that when you’re looking at data-tracking systems. And then, finally, sharing that impact with stakeholders, what are some of the questions you want to be able to ask and answer. So that’s a lot to cover in an hour but we are confident that we can get it done.

So impact. What is impact? We know the impact is having a strong effect on someone or something. And if you’re in the room today, chances are you are part of a nonprofit organization or, what I like to call, a purpose-driven organization. Every business, whether it be for-profit or nonprofit business, is usually created for purpose. That purpose might be to grow financial well for a for-profit business. Most of our nonprofits have a human or community interest in mind, that purpose, and they exist to create impact, positive impact on the communities that we serve. So I’m sure that all of you are saying, “Yes, that’s exactly why we’re here,” but the challenge becomes when we are working so hard to make a difference in the lives around us, a lot of times we just don’t, you know, know what we should be tracking or how we should be reporting. We’re so busy doing the work that we forget to stop, track what we’re doing, and share it with others so that they can engage in the organization.

So we want to understand a little bit about why reporting impact is so important today. I mean, obviously, you’re here so you believe it’s important, but why exactly is it important? One of our friends, Beth Brodovsky, who is also an expert in the nonprofit field, likes to say, “People don’t want to fund your existence, they want to fund your impact.” And we, at Funding for Good, truly believe this, people, they don’t just want to fund your impact, they want to be a part of it. So this is specific to donors but you may be sharing your impact with people that you want to engage as partners or clients or volunteers. So when you think about impact, think about the fact that people don’t want to just support your existence just because, you know, keep those doors open, keep the lights on.

When I started in the nonprofit field, over 20 years ago, you know, all of the annual appeals said, “Please help us keep our lights on,” or, “please help us keep our doors open.” And, you know, we had to prove to people that we were the best at what we did. And the field has really shifted since then. Donors and community members aren’t looking for you to be the best, they want to see that you are the best steward of resources. And that might involve collaboration, saying, “We acknowledge that there are others in the community that do this better or more effectively. And we partner with them for those services, and our energy and resources are focused on the gaps.” People want to know that, when they give their time, their talents, their treasure, that it’s creating impact. And, you know, that’s the basics of what we want to cover today.

So how do we know what to track? We can’t go into what data systems or, you know, what fields to use until we know, “What do we want to track?” And to determine what we want to track, we want to look at different areas of engagement. You know, what do we want to happen as a result of the data? So we’re not just creating these reports to share information. I mean it’s great to share information but really we’re wanting to engage people. We want people to take action. So, in order to know what to track, we have to start and do the build-it-backwards approach and say, “What action do we want people to take as a result of our impact reporting?”

So, again, that question, “What action or what response do we want to this impact report?” Maybe you want an emotional response that leads to volunteerism. Maybe you want an emotional response that leads to being an ambassador for your organization. Maybe you’re looking for, you know . . . it may be emotional or pragmatic or it may just be, you know, just a good response from a donor saying, “This is worth my time and energy in my dollars.” So what action or what reaction are you looking for? That’s going to help you determine what information do we need to track in order to get that engagement we’re looking for.

So you may be looking at this through the donor-focused lens. You may be saying, “What do donors want to fund?” And we’re not just chasing donors, we’re saying, “What the donors who are interested in our field and passionate about our area of service, what do they want to fund?” We’re not trying to, you know, what we call, “mission creep,” creep away from what we do and why we exist, we’re saying, “what do the donors in this field want to fund right now? Are they wanting to fund children’s programs? Are they wanting to fund capacity-building initiatives? Do they like those one-time projects, those capital projects where you can build that outdoor classroom or,” you know, “purchase that mobile mammogram unit for your hospital and be able to create impact for years to come?” What are the things donors want to see?

Are you going to use this to evaluate your internal operations so that you can become more efficient, more effective. Those are two different things, efficient and effective operating. So maybe this isn’t something you’re going to share with donors but it’s going to help you determine, “How can we best use the resources that donors have given us to be efficient and effective in our daily operations?” You know, are you looking at your strategic plan for the next three to five years and saying, “We’re wanting to build capacity and we need to understand what are the areas of impact that we’ve said we want to create through our strategic plan? How do we report on that?” So we know statistically that having a written strategic plan doubles our chances for success and that 70% of businesses that last past that 15-year-old mark have a strategic plan. So, if you’re collecting impact data, then we would want to see that that’s going to align with your strategic plan goals. Because that’s that business plan, that strategic plan that’s driving your capacity-building efforts.

And finally, you know, what do we want the community to do when they see and read this impact report? What is it we’re asking them to do? What’s that call to action?

So, when you think about the what the reaction is, what the action is that you’re seeking, that’s going to help you figure out, “What do we need to track?” These are the three areas that we get the most questions about. And we see a lot of confusion, especially from startup nonprofits, as they’re trying to track that data. One of the most common situations we see here, at Funding for Good, with groups that are 4, 5, 6, 7-years-old, they’re starting to apply for grants, you know, they’re upping their fundraising game, and they’re trying to share the impact from their first years. And they stop and they say, “Marie, oh my goodness, we didn’t really track how many people we served in the first year,” or, “we didn’t have a donor-tracking system,” or, “we didn’t have these client-tracking systems.” So everything’s a guesstimate. And it’s really hard to go back and say, “What did we actually do those years?” So we encourage you to even start with the basics so that you do have a snapshot of where you’re starting or where you are today. And there’s three different areas that we can look at.

One is service. And that’s when you deliver a program or a good, it can be tangible or non-tangible, to a person, or it could be a pet, or in the community. So it’s a direct delivery. So, for example, if I provide an after-school program, I just use that a lot because I ran an after-school program for over a decade, but if I’m delivering academic programs, then I’m going to be looking at the number of students served. Maybe I am teaching computer classes, or English as a second language classes, maybe I’m teaching those and I have 10 students. So, if I provide 10 English as a second language or 10 computer literacy programs a year for 10 people, let’s just say that’s 100 pieces of content, that’s service.

Engagement, on the other hand, is more about the introduction of the organization to the community. One of the biggest mistakes we see nonprofits make, when it comes to engagement, is they look at these big community festivals and say, “This is a great way to get our name out there. We’re going to engage lots of community members.” And I had one organization tell me, “Oh, we spent three days at this community festival, it was a fun festival, our topic is a little bit heavy,” you know, “we don’t have as many people stopping by the booth because people are looking,” you know, “for the funnel cakes and all those games but it’s worth our time because we’re getting visible.” And I asked, I said, “Well, how many people did you engage? Because I saw the report and it said ‘20,000 people’ and I thought, ‘there is no way this table attracted 20,000 people over the period of 3 days, given my experience in those festivals.'” So I said, “How did you count the engagement?” “Well, we went to the city website and that was about how many people that they said,” you know, “they said 25,000 to 30,000 and we assumed that a portion came by our table. So we just calculated at 20,000.” That would not be a proper calculation of engagement. So we said, “Moving forward, take one of those little clickers that you use when you count cars as they come into a ballpark, or things like that, and only count the interactions at your table. If someone comes up and asks questions, they pick up your business card and ask a question, or they pick up your brochure to get information, those would count as engagement. Then you can determine, ‘How many people did we truly engage at this event?'”

You may realize that you are spending too much time at the events that are attracting large community audiences but they’re not your tribe, they’re not your audience, and that you do better at smaller events, you’re actually going to get more interactions at those smaller events. You might do this with news or press releases and radio interviews, you may be looking at the reach and the listening audience to say, “How many people did you engage?” You certainly didn’t serve those people but you provided them with information or an introduction to your mission. So that counts as engagement.

And then, finally, we think about impact. And this is where you can really dive deep and say what is the impact of the work you’re doing in the community. And that includes the extended effect on the programs delivered. So earlier I mentioned maybe a parent who took English as a second language classes or maybe they got their GED or they took those computer literacy programs. What do you believe would be the impact? You know, how many people are impacted by that? That higher education level, the ability to communicate, the ability to complete their education affects probably their spouse or their partner, it might affect their children. So that’s the extended impact. When we help a member of a family get a job, get ready for career readiness, or overcome substance abuse or addictions, then what is the ripple effect of the service that was provided? That is impact.

And, a lot of times, our nonprofits stop short at impact and they really only look at service. They say, “We serve 10 people.” So, when we’re thinking about impact reporting, we want to say, “What is the ripple effect of the service we provided to this one or two or three individuals?” And you can do that in different ways. So, for example, if I know that a program provided stability through a job or through education for a family, I have two options. I can actually track the clients we serve and get profiles on them and say, “How many dependents do you have in your house? How many people are impacted by,” you know, “your job or your education?” You know, maybe you’re their advocate or you’re their guardian.

If you do not have the capacity to track those things, then another acceptable way to do that is look at your local demographics, and, say, the average family size is four people or five people, and use that as the projection and say, “Our organization served X number of adults through this program and was able to impact a projected X-number of children in our community or provide more stable homes or stable living environments for a projected number of children.” And use the word “projected,” because we know that the service definitely impacted people in a positive way and we’re using local statistics to make sure that we’ve captured that impact.

Does that make sense? Was there anything helpful about that comparison between service engagement and impact? And I’m looking over . . . Robin’s asking, “Writing a grant, how can you report impact and add measures to success with looking for funding for a pilot program?” So good question, Robin, and I’ll give you the brief answer. If we have more time at the end, I’ll dive into that. Typically, if you’re starting a pilot program and you do not have your own history of success . . . consider impact reporting kind of like your credit score. You know, if you’re starting a business or you want a credit card or something like that, they’re going to look at your credit history. 

Your impact reporting, your successful achievement of goals is kind of like your credit score in the nonprofit world. And if you’re new or you’re starting a new program, it’s essentially like starting out with zero credit. But what you can do is you can build on the things you do have in your favor. So look at the fact, are you creating and using an evidence-based program model? So, if your program has an evidence-based model, and I’m not just saying . . . there’s different types, there’s proven means it’s worked for another group in the past, evidence-based, it needs to meet those criteria, that means study. And you can just look up “scientific criteria” for evidence-based. Is it an evidence-based curriculum or process? Are you using evidence-based methods. If so, then that gives a measure of assurance to donors to say, “This is a program that has worked. This is a system that works.”

You can also speak to the skills and the talents and the successes of those leading the program. So the program director, their resume. You know, “This person has successfully launched X similar programs,” or, “they have been in the field,” or, “they’re an expert.” So you can use the model of the program being evidence-based, show that it was successful in similar communities with similar needs, and you can use the success and the expertise of your team members. Hopefully, that helps a little bit. So, if you don’t have the exact data, you look at the data of the program itself and those who are implementing it.

We need to know what metrics we need to be tracking. And the only way to do that is to create SMART goals, or we might call them SMART goals, objectives. And that stands for different things. Some people say, “Specific, measurable, action-driven.” Others say, “Attainable, specific, measurable, action-driven, realistic, relevant, and timely.” So, if I say, “Oh, you know what? I want to lose 5 pounds.” Well, you know, it sounds like a good goal, right, but do I need to lose that? Is it specific? Or let me just say, if I’m going to say, “I’m going to lose weight. I want to lose weight,” that’s not specific. I could measure it but then, technically, it’s not statistically significant if I lost .0001 pounds. I haven’t really said how I’m going to do it. I don’t know if it’s realistic or relevant because I don’t know how much I’m trying to lose, and I don’t know by when so it’s not timely. But if I say, “I have a goal to lose 5 pounds by December 30th,” then you could say, “is it specific?” Yes. Is it measurable? Absolutely. You know, I could say, “I’m going to lose it through healthy eating or exercise,” it’s action-driven. It’s realistic and relevant. Doctors would say that’s a healthy weight loss over the period of time I have. And it’s timely, it’s coming up.

So I use that kind of as a layman’s version of SMART goals but we want to be thinking about your program. And every time you establish goals for your program, they should meet the SMART criteria. And, by creating goals that meet the SMART criteria or objectives, you may have a broad goal and then have specific objectives underneath, it allows you to know what fields you should be tracking in your data-tracking systems.

So, for example, a broad goal might be, “We want to improve the academic performance of third graders in our program.” Now, that doesn’t really meet the SMART criteria but it’s an overarching goal. Underneath that goal, I established very specific objectives that did meet the SMART criteria. So it might be that they’re going to improve their reading scores by 5% or, you know, by June 30th, or they’re going to increase their math scores. And we could have different areas of their academics. So, if you’re going to have an overarching goal, such as improve health or improve the stability of families or anything that’s not considered a SMART criteria, you should be following up with objectives that state, “These are the benchmarks to know that we were successful.” I like to call those “success indicators.” So what you call SMART goals, you can say, “What will be the indicators of success?” you know, “what statistics, which facts do we need to be tracking to make sure that we successfully achieve these goals?”

So some of the things that you’re going to be looking at are . . . you know, there’s two types of data, there’s quantitative data. And quantitative data is that those hard facts, they’re numerical, they can be ordered, they can be organized. So it might be the number of clients served, the attendance records, number of volunteers, hours that the volunteers have contributed, number of miles driven, or meals served, or nights of lodging provided. So quantitative data is really, you know, that ordered kind of big picture information. So we say “Our after-school program served 200 children this year,” or, “we served X number of meals to underserved members of our community.” Those are all examples of quantitative data.

On the other hand, qualitative data provides that human component. And this is extremely important. This is where we capture the experiences of our clients, we address expectations from donors, we look at what inspires people to participate . . . I’m sorry, I’m getting a little hoarse today. We’ve been teaching a lot recently. Impressions, opinions, increases in knowledge, change in behavior that might not be, you know, something that we can capture objectively.

And I have a lot of people say, “Well, which one is better, quantitative or qualitative?” And my response is neither. Data is best presented when you can share a combination of quantitative and qualitative. I’ll go back to my example of the after-school program. If we come in and say, “100% of our students met their goals,” you might be impressed as a donor. And for a good reason. We produced quantitative data demonstrating that our program achieved the academic goals. But what if you came in and you saw this after-school program resembled more a military experience and children were miserable, they were missing fun activities, they were withdrawn, they were stressed, they felt like they were failing if they got one point below what they thought they should get. If the experience of those children is not positive, then is it really a celebration? Is it really something worth shouting from the rooftops and saying, “Look at this amazing impact”?

So it’s really important to think about that qualitative data, especially groups who may not be serving large numbers of people. You know, you might not be serving a large number of people, and when I look at the number of people you serve per year as a donor, I may say, “But you only served 20 people.” That’s where you reach out and you say, “But let me tell you the story, let me put a human face on that. And then let me tell you the impact that had the ripple effect that the service of these 20 people had on families. This is a mom who’s now able to care for her children. This is a dad who’s overcome amazing challenges and gone through physical therapy and is now walking again and running with his children.” You combine the quantitative and the qualitative data in order to paint the picture of the impact that you’ve created.

Does that make sense? Any questions about quantitative or qualitative? And I see an anonymous question here about, “Can you speak to what evaluation methods are particularly effective regarding impact?” We’re going to be moving on, I’m going to keep moving through the program, and then, if these questions have not been addressed at the end, we’ll definitely touch on those. I want to see if there’s anything about qualitative and quantitative. There’s lots of ways, and you should also . . . I mean there’s data tracking and, you know, there’s donor-management stuff as well, we’ve got Bloomerang, we’ve got all kinds of other systems in there as well, but a lot of groups start out with Excel. And I would say that that’s not a great option for tracking data because it’s not as easy to manipulate, especially if you don’t know how to put in all the fields and the queries. And it can get a little bit cumbersome. But there’s Salesforce, there’s SureImpact, there’s Microsoft Access, KaleidaCare, Sumac, all kinds of different ways to track data. The question is, “How are we inputting it?” you know, “how are we, one, collecting it, and then who’s inputting that data?” Right?

So, when we think about data-collecting options, we need to think, “When are we going to be making reports?” So, if we’re just waiting for the end of the year, then you may say, “Well, we’re going to do it at a six-month mark and end-of-the-year mark.” I highly recommend doing monthly data tracking and then compiling quarterly reports. Because it can get away from you. If you have transitions or turnover in staff or things get busy, it can get a little bit complicated. So I highly recommend that data tracking be kept on a monthly basis with larger reports running every quarter.

There are lots of different ways to do this. Right now, Mandy and I over at Funding for Good are working with several different groups. We work with a lot of habitats, we work with a lot of humane societies, and lots of other groups to create their year-end appeal and to craft their impact report. And when it comes to the end of the year, we only have like a short letter to say, “Here’s all the amazing things we’ve accomplished and here’s what we need you to help us with moving into the new year.” And I asked them, “I want some quotes from clients,” or, you know, “give me some stories,” and they’re like, “oh, we need to go and we need to go capture those. We need to go ask people.” And it’s really hard to go, at the end of the year, and start tracking people down and still get that fresh just heartwarming perspective that you could have gotten if you had reached out and asked for that right after delivering the program or completing whatever that service is that you offered.

So I encourage you, when you’re thinking about data tracking options, you think about, “How are we going to collect this on an ongoing basis?” One of the communities we work with is a recovery community. And they have a sober living community and, you know, live-in-type halfway house experience and they have weekly meetings. So we worked with them to create a list of questions that they could pose each week. And it might be something like, “How does life look different now that you’re in this community?” or, “how has your life improved?” or, “how have your relationships with your family improved since you’ve been a part of the sober living community?” you know, “what does this Christmas look like compared to last Christmas?” “what are you most excited about as you transition out of this recovery community?” you know, “what made you hit rock bottom and made you decide to come here?”

So we ask these questions, very short questions, and the group leader, each week, is going to have a piece of paper, just a half a piece of paper with a marker, and he’s going to ask, he’s going to say, “You know what? This is the focus question. I’m going to give you two or three minutes just to think about it. And in 20 words or less, just try to respond to this question.” You know, “What made you hit rock bottom and decide it’s time to get sober?” Giving people time to process, to collect their thoughts before they share them allows you to get a better pulse on the impact. Sometimes we want an immediate response, and those can be great for some people, but sometimes people need time to process.

So this particular group, each week at their meeting, or at least twice a month, is going to be asking a question. They’ll have those on paper, it will be part of their discussion as a group, they’ll get to talk about those things, and then they’ll be able to collect those. And they don’t have to share the name of the person who shared it but we can use that and say, “You know what? This is what one of the clients said. This is the hope that this program provides.” So think about that and say, “What are the ways that you can engage with people you serve at the moment that doesn’t seem cumbersome?” It’s not a huge questionnaire, it doesn’t have to be something that, you know, that complicated. It might be, “Answer this one question for a chance to be entered into this drawing at the end of an event.” And you could say, “By sharing this information, you’re giving us permission to share it. Please indicate if you would like your name to be shared or prefer us to use, you know, a different name.” So you can put Ann, or Joe in parentheses, or whatever you want.

So how are you collecting that information? You know, are you doing videos? You know, have those focus questions. So, when you’re thinking about qualitative data, think about the focus questions you can ask and how you can build that into your program designs, your events throughout the year so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to put something in these systems. Does that make sense? Is that helpful at all?

So we know for a fact the content without context is meaningless. And I say this all the time, this is kind of one of my quotes, Mandy put it up here because she said, “You say this all the time.” We have groups all the time. We were working with a group out in Wyoming, a couple years ago, and I said, “Well, tell me what you’ve achieved this year,” and they said, “Well, we spent new $100.” And I said, “So what? I don’t know if I’m supposed to say ‘congratulations’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ Was your goal $200? In that case, you fell 50% short? Was your goal $50 and you doubled it and we should be celebrating and I’m going to,” you know, “clap, give you a pat on the back?” Right. So content without context is meaningless.

So, when you send out an impact report to donors and say, “We served X number of people,” there’s no context there. But if you say, “Thanks to your generosity we were able to exceed our goal and serve 20% more,” or, “serve X number of people, compared to our original goal of 100,” then that makes them feel like, “Wow, we did something. We achieved something together.” So, when you’re thinking about impact reporting, think about the context because content without it is absolutely meaningless. You might be excited that you served 20 people. And to other people that might be like, “Why are you even putting that in a report?” So provide context. How many hours go into those services? What are the life changes that result from those services? Because, when you’re dealing with mental health or you’re dealing with physical health or you’re dealing with things that require lots of contact hours, you might be serving fewer people but the impact you’re making is just as great. How do we share that?

So I like to ask, “So what?” to everything. And I did this a little bit earlier but I’m going to kind of share it again, again, if someone tells you something or you’re looking at your impact report, I want you to keep asking, “So what? So what?” until you get down to the most important thing. Okay? So you raised $20,000. So what? “Well, thanks to this $20,000, there are 12 local artists who have a place to hang their artwork.” So what? “In addition to hanging their artwork, it gives them a creative space to be able to produce that artwork and provide for their families an average, which means that’s another 60 people who are being provided for in our community.” Okay, I’m starting to care. “Because we raised this $20,000 and have this gallery and classroom space, 200 children from our local special-needs programs are able to do art therapy on site for free or reduced rates.” Oh, I’m really caring now. So what was the impact of that 20,000? Ask “So what?” until we touch those heart strings.

So a couple samples here this is from Charity Water. If you’re not familiar with Charity Water, they’re a leading nonprofit at the global level. They just do an amazing job with marketing and messaging. The yellow font is things that I would add in here. So they say, “We work with local experts and community members to find the best sustainable solution,” and I say, “Well, how many?” So, if I were sending this to a particular donor or, you know, out in a newsletter, I might say, “With X local experts, in which places that we work?” “With every water point we fund our, blank, partner.” So maybe it’s our diverse, our national, our local partners coordinate. So you have opportunities in these messages to share impact data, to share how many people you’re partnering with, how many people you’ve served. So even when you’re doing it in paragraph form like that, you can build in content that provides a little bit of context.

Another way to share impact reports is through images, and this is from Charity Water as well. And it’s just a fabulous image, to say . . . look at that glass. “Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.” Okay, so they provided shocking statistics to provide context. Because content of, “We need more wells,” or, “we need more pure water across the world” isn’t enough. But when you give context like this, you know, mind-blowing statistic, then it makes people stop. “Forty three percent of those deaths are children under 5 years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week.” Using statistics, Charity Water is able to say, “This is the problem and we have a solution.” And then they can share with you, you know, how many lives they’re able to save through their work. So we can save 16,000 lives every week.

So I encourage you, when you’re thinking about your impact reporting, that you go beyond just what your organization is doing and put it within the context of what’s happening in the world, in your community, in the field. So maybe you got 20 people off the streets who were living homeless in your community, and that was 30% of the homeless population that you’re aware of. People need to know what the problem is at a greater level so that they can see what was your impact on that. But just saying, “We helped 20 people who are homeless,” does not provide context.

Many of you probably work in fields where you cannot share pictures and maybe use the actual names of some of your clients, you work with vulnerable populations, we get that. But there are lots of ways to share impact in ways that still kind of hit a nerve. This bottle with dirty water does exactly that. “Four thousand one hundred children die each day from water-related diseases.” So remember when I asked, “So what? So what?” these statistics tell me, “so what?” And then, if it’s followed with an impact report from your organization, such, “as help us save,” or, “your gift of this will allow us to reach X number of children,” you better believe I’m going to be more likely to contribute. So, again, context. If you are a new organization, you might not have context within your community just yet. But, hopefully, before you started a nonprofit, you did do some market research and you spoke to your chamber of commerce and you spoke to your city and county government and you really did an assessment on what the need is, you didn’t just start a nonprofit on a whim because 501(c)(3)s are public charities, they exist for the community you serve. So the question is, “Do you understand those needs in the community and can you present them as part of your impact report?”

And I did see some hands . . . Steven, if you see hands going up or you feel like something’s particularly relevant to something I’m discussing, feel free to interrupt. Otherwise, we’ll kind of . . . I see Robin just raised a hand. If you would like to pose a specific question, Sandy, just raised a hand as well. We’re not verbal . . . if you could type your question into the Q&A, that will help us at the end of this conversation tackle those questions one by one. But since we’re not hitting Unmute, I encourage you to put it in the Q&A box. The chat box is great but we can find your specific questions in the Q&A much quicker.

So we want to think about donor-specific messaging. And when you think about, “Why should we share past impacts?” past impact is kind of like sharing your credit score with the bank. Someone wants to invest in you, they want to loan you resources, you need to assure them that you are a worthy investment, that you’re a safe and stable investment. So your past impact is like your credit score. It’s that, “Here’s how you know that you can trust us.” So it’s assurance. Present impact helps engage people. “We are serving X number of students right now.” “We are providing X number of meals, would you come join us?” So we look at what we want to do with past impact, we’re really assuring people, present impact, we’re engaging, future impact, sharing our strategic plan goals, sharing, you know, what specific projects we have in the upcoming months or years really serves to inspire people to say, “I can give today and be contributing to the future at the same time.” Like, “I’m building a foundation today because there is a plan for the future.” Right?

Future impact. That is another reason your strategic plan should be driving your data-reporting process. We know for a fact that over 50% of nonprofits in the U.S. businesses do not have a strategic plan. Well, how do you go to donors and tell them what your goals are? Those goals might be susceptible to change but, if a strategic plan has been created with, you know, input from your board, your staff, your community and there are SMART goals and success indicators in there, you can go out and you can inspire people and say, “This is what we’re trying to do.” So impact messaging. You’re sharing past impact, you’re sharing present in your quarterly reports, and future impact is when you’re sharing, “Here are our goals for the future.” All three types of impact reporting allow you to engage your stakeholders, whether they’re donors, community members, clients, partners, or whatever they might be.

Sample metrics. I’m not going to read all of these, I think you all can go back through the slides, but it will include those things that you can count demographic-data achievements, things like that. You want to make sure that you are tracking those things, positive changes in the community, things like that.

Where to share data? So now that you have, hopefully, a data-tracking system, the first question is, “What do we need to track?” We already answered that, we said, “Who we want to share this with and what are the actions we need people to take as a result of this information?” So once we know what information we’re tracking, we’ve established collection methods, we say, “Okay, you know, before our after-school program,” you know, “we’re going to do . . . ” or, “before this particular educational series, we’re going to do a pre-test, we’re going to do a post-test afterwards, that’s going to be created. We’re going to use educational report cards and teacher reports for academic performance.” Maybe for an animal welfare you’re going to be looking at the health records or adoption rates of the pets you serve. Whatever it is, you’ve got those collection methods and tracking frequency outlined. You’ve got someone inputting it into the system. And then you have someone taking that out and saying, “Okay, how do we actually share this in a way that makes sense?”

You might be using it in your marketing materials, and I’ll show you some examples here in just a second. Your fundraising appeals. I mentioned the sober living environment earlier, we’re doing this also with habitats, we are creating systems so that, quarterly, when we send out those direct mail appeals, those eblasts, those social-media posts, we have quotes, we’re not having to track them down.

Partnership agreements. Grant proposals. If you’re writing a grant, most of the time they’ll say, “We want a partnership agreement between your organization and the organization you’re collaborating with.” Being able to say, “Here’s what we’ve done together.” Now, your community partner might not remember those things, maybe they’ve had turnover, but if you are tracking the impact and who had a part of that . . . like, so, for example, we have a community-partners tracking list and we say, “Here’s who our partners are, this is when the partnership began, here’s a description, and here are some of the key achievements.” You can keep running tabs on that in your data-tracking system so that when grant proposals come up, you can pull up that information and say, “We’ve successfully partnered with the local YMCA and, over the last five years, we’ve coordinated X number of programs and served X number of kids.” You’ll have that information at your fingertips for those grants.

You can create an annual impact or generosity report. I don’t like to just call them “annual reports,” I like “impact or generosity report.” You can take one of your goals from your strategic plan or from one of your programs, one of your smaller maybe objectives from a program, share it on your social media, and then say thanks to, you know, your Giving Tuesday or, “Thanks to this particular,” you know, “effort, we’ve exceeded this goal,” and share that information. Outreach and awareness campaigns, like the one I showed you from Charity Waters, they first educate you before they can engage you. If you have a topic that people are not as familiar with, maybe they don’t even realize there’s a problem, then you might need an education campaign that includes statistics before you can show how you can impact those statistics. And, finally, websites and strategic plan.

So, when you’re thinking about how to capture the impact, you need to be asking, “What do we do? Why is it important?” So that “So what? So what?” and, “how can we actually measure the impact?” So I had a group tell me one time, they were writing a grant and they needed support, and they said, “We are the best summer camp for boys in the state.” Like, “Okay, how do you claim that?” “Well, because people just love it.” “Okay, well, that’s qualitative data, ‘students have said.’ So what do we do?” “We offer summer camps.” “Why is it important? Tell me why it’s important? Get to that ‘so what?'” But, at the end of the day, I need to be able to measure impact, either using quantitative or qualitative. So, if I say, “9 out of 10 of our campers say this is the best summer camp experience they’ve ever had, my goodness, that’s pretty impressive.” Or, “Our average score,” or, you know, “we receive 5 stars from 98% of our campers.” Something that we can measure, whether it’s a star system, like five being the best and one being the worst, but we need to figure out how we’re going to quantify that. And these are the three kind of questions you’re asking, “What do we do?” “why is it important?” and, “how are we going to measure it?”

A couple of samples here for you, and I know we’re tracking along. Like I said, this is usually two to three hours, and we take a lot more time, but you’re getting the boot-camp version. This is just a sample impact-data report that you could put on a magnet, you could put it on a postcard and send it out. And, you know, you might have it phrased as a thank you that year. And, you know, I’m not saying you have to love the colors, these colors are not my favorite, but it’s just a nice sample to be able to give context and say, “This is how many animals came in. This is how many animals went out,” they gave context. “Sixty five percent of cats adopted transferred out, and it’s a record at Lollipop Farm.” So, if I’m a donor and I see that we created a record, it’s going to excite me a little bit more. You can see all of the data right here . . . so this is a sample donor-impact report and this is pretty much just the quantitative data. You might, on the back, have a story or you might have a little breakout with a picture of it and a little snapshot of their success story. So, again, you can combine quantitative and qualitative data in reports.

I personally love using bookmark-type magnet postcard-type, I guess, handouts or alternative needs lists. This is a nice visible one. It is cut off just a little bit at the top so that we could fit it on your screen. But this is for a horse rescue. And they say every month they need 4,500 gallons of water, 112 bales of hay, 1650 pounds of pellets. And they give you the information of what they need, and then they show you how many horses have been rescued since their founding. This is important in lots of different ways because, if I just tell people, “Our dollar budget . . . ” they may go, “I don’t have the dollars to give that,” or, “I don’t really know where my money’s going.” But when I create a visual image of the needs of the organization and how they help us create the impact of saving 50 horses, then I can look at those things and say, “Well, you know what, we have an old apple orchard on my granddad’s land and,” you know, “those apples are just falling to the ground every year. We can certainly pick them up and donate them or have volunteers come out and pick them up.” Or maybe, I have some leftover hay or I have a field that could be, you know, baled. Whatever it might be, you might look at the actual items and determine, “Hey, I can give that as an in-kind gift.” And if they’re not spending money on 112 bales of hay, those dollars can be used for other things to expand the organization’s mission and impact. So, again, using your impact data and your needs in visual ways allows you to engage people more readily.

This is one of my favorite because this is a local group we have here, in our community. And they were getting lots and lots of food donations because everyone feels great about running down to the dollar store, Food Lion, and grabbing a couple boxes of cereals or canned items. And we know we’ve all done that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But they happen to have an amazing partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and they could stretch those dollars. So you see here, “Through Second Harvest Food Bank, we can turn a $5.92 donation into $219.04 and a $4.32 donation into $116.54.”

You’re thinking, “Where did they come up with that?” Well, they calculated and said how much, you know, “For $5.92 we can purchase 37 jars of peanut butter. If you go down to Food Lion and purchase 37 jars worth at Food Lion, it’s going to cost you $219.04.” So they did a little creative math. They provided context. They woke me up a little bit here. So instead of me taking, you know, “I certainly can’t get 37 jars worth of peanut butter for $6,” you know, “let me give them $6 and let them go buy that.” So this was a creative way for them to get what they needed in dollars but also show that they’re being great stewards of a donor’s gift.

So this might be something that you can take. Maybe you do animal welfare and you have a partnership to get dog food, or maybe you have partnerships for vet services, or maybe you work with health programs and you get in-kind contributions, you know, through local providers. Look at the cost of what you get people items for and the things that you need for your mission and then show the donor how you can stretch their dollars if they trust you with that gift.

When we look at grants, we know that we need to be able to show impact. And this is from the Save Them All, Best Friends . . . if you know Best Friends Animal Society, the national group, they have a grant proposal and they said, “You must demonstrate a direct impact on saving lives and/or leading to reduction in shelter deaths.” So, if you are a local animal-welfare group and you’re taking in animals off the streets, you’re doing trap, neuter, release of cats and things like that, you might need to think beyond what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis and look at how your work is impacting your other shelters in the community. We have a lot of groups that are working in kill shelter communities. So animal-welfare groups pop up and they’re trying to get those dogs, save those lives, get them off, you know, death row. And being able to tell donors, you know, “We didn’t just rescue 20 dogs, we saved 20 dogs from death row at the local animal shelter. And this is how many animals are meeting this terrible fate each year.” Educate the donors. Because they may say, “You only serve 20 dogs,” but you have the capacity to serve 200 if they support. So providing education, when I said earlier, context for your content is going to really elevate your impact reporting to another level. So we got to stop just focusing on, “Here’s the number of people we served, here’s the number of meals we provided,” we have to ask, “so what?” and provide that “why” to the people that we are trying to engage.

So I have a couple examples here. This was from a grant . . . Funding for Good actually provided a little grant to some animal-welfare groups when we were presenting at the Best Friends conference. And we had said, “You know what?” Mandy and I were pretty sure, we said, “we’re not going to fund a spay and neuter, we’re going to look for that chihuahua that needs surgery or we’re going to,” you know, “one of those cute little animals or cats or hamsters.” Because, you know, spay and neuter just isn’t that exciting. Right? Everyone does that. But then Duck Team 6 in Texas wrote an application and said, “$500 funds 5 spay surgeries.” And we know $500 isn’t a lot but for them, they were saying, “your dollars is a lot. It will fund five spay surgeries.” All right, five spay surgeries, big deal.

“In our experience, a street dog has 2 litters of approximately 6 puppies, 2 times a year, which is 96 puppies over her lifetime. Thanks to this grant, 480 puppies will not be facing a life on the street, and this number does not include the offspring of those puppies.” Guess who got the grant, folks. They provided education and impact data in a way that they knew that they could fund five spay surgeries with that and that’s the impact they could create. That is an example of impact reporting well done.

“Filters for Families proposes to improve the health of 500 Liberian families by installing compact or portable water filters in each home. For only $50 a filter, we can provide more than 250 gallons daily or 912,500 gallons of safe drinking water per family over the 10-year lifespan of the filter.” Lots of information in there, for my appeal. I need fifty $50 but I’m giving 10 years and nearly a million gallons of water for a family. And then we have another sample there at the bottom that I won’t read you but you can review that after today’s session.

We can share these types of stories and mission moments at our local civic clubs, local faith groups. We always want to know how do we present our organization with a unique factor. So, if you’re sharing an impact report, remember context. What is the context? “We are the only after school program for ESL students in the community.” “We are the only . . . ” I think one participant, in our last session, said, “we’re the only palliative care program for youth in our community. We’re the longest serving. Introduce the organization with that unique or, what I like to call, your “unicorn statement.” Maybe your program has a unicorn statement or maybe your organization as a whole. But what is it? You know, every organization has multifacets. Today, I’m coming to you as a lead consultant with Funding for Good. I’m also a small business owner, I have a construction company and I do language interpretation for businesses. I’m not coming to you saying, “Hey, I’m here as an interpreter through my company MP ProConsult,” because that’s not what you’re here for. So you have to think, “How do we introduce ourselves to the donors in this particular group?” or, “to our readers, in this particular way?” or, “our listeners.” “Who’s receiving the message?” again, is the most important thing. “How do we provide the context that reaches them and then we share our impact information so that they can see, ‘Wow, here’s the problem. Here’s how this organization can be used as a tool for me to be part of the solution.’?”

You can use those wow factor stats, like I shared through Charity Water, you can share the power of your dollar, like I just showed you through the filter and the spay-and-neuter grant. Press releases, human interest stories, things like that are really great. Being able to say, “Hey, we just completed our three-year strategic planning process and here’s the impact we want to create. Here’s how we’ve done to date,” is a great way to get that visibility out in the community. And again, your newsletters, direct mail, and generosity reports.

So, when you’re thinking about impact reporting, I know we’re running up to the end of our hour, you want to remember, “Who are we reporting to? What are you reporting about? When does it have to be tracked?” Put it into your system, that is so very important. Can you eliminate unnecessary data fields? Who’s responsible for collecting? What do you think you might need to track if you’re looking at a new capital campaign or new fundraising streams? How will they to be evaluated and organized? And how will you convert it into that impact report, remembering that context is everything?

Now, we do have lots of programs coming up, I’m not going to spend a lot on this. We have a “2022 Nonprofit Leadership Development Series” happening next year where we go a little bit more into engaging leadership and all of these types of things. I’m not going to spend a lot of time pitching that or anything like that. And, if you feel like, “Well, we might need Funding for Good to support,” we are happy to connect for a free 15-minute strategy call. You can use that link, connect with Marie, me, if you want anything on the page that says, “work with Marie.” Or you can connect with Mandy for development coaching, grant writing, all of those things, using the information provided.

I’m going to open it up to questions. I’m going to also project on the screen just so people can find it, Funding for Good’s website, and show you we do have lots of great free resources for you if you go to Training and go to Events. We teach a lot of free webinars through the North Carolina Small Business Centers. So, again, those are a little bit longer than one hour, and you might get a little bit more depth into some of these topics. Feel free to check out Events. And, at the bottom of the page, if you go to Templates and Downloads right here, you will be able to access both reduced-rate and free templates. All of the ones that are paid have been professionally designed and are super, super easy to edit. All of these free templates and tools are absolutely editable, you can take our logo out, put yours in, and we hope that they provide you with resources so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

So I know that we’re going to head over to the questions box in the few minutes we have left. I’m happy to stay on an extra five minutes if we need. Let’s see . . . 

Steven: Hey, Marie, I think we weren’t seeing your website, I think we were still seeing your PowerPoint deck when you were going through that. Sorry.

Marie: Let me go, share. Let me go through the screen share. All right. So, if you see, and I’m glad you called that. If you go to . . . 

Steven: There it goes.

Marie: and, at the bottom of every page, you’ll see me scrolling down, you’ll see this little thing that says Templates and Downloads. Doesn’t matter what page you go on, if you click on that, you’re going to get to a lot of free resources right here. They’re all in editable templates. The ones that we’ve had professionally designed, because Mandy and I create content but we are not designers, we’ve had someone create these more frequently requested ones up here, but you have lots of free resources here. And, if you go to the top of our page, at any point, and type in any question you have, you can use that little magnifying glass, type it in, and all of our resources will pop up. 

We have a great YouTube channel. And again, if you go to the Training and go to the Events right here, you can see our full list of events. We’re updating that almost every single week. And we offer a lot of free trainings with community partners, as well as some really low-cost trainings as well. So, again, you can check those out. And if you’re wanting to know a little bit more, like getting to know donors, segmenting strategies, webinar, a little bit more deeper dives into these things, you can check those out. We never click bait you. You’ll be able to see, if it’s free, it will say “free” beside it. If it’s not, it will say something else, so you never get click baited on our site. We want to make sure that we have something for everyone, and we understand that communities need nonprofits like yours and we’re here to help. Can we look at these questions, Steven?

Steven: Yeah, we’ve got a few here. But thank you. Dang, that was awesome, there was so much good stuff in there, Marie. So thank you, thank you for doing this.

Marie: It was a sprint.

Steven: Yeah, you said what? That was normally what, a six or three-hour workshop. Is that what . . . 

Marie: I normally do that anywhere from two to three hours but we gave kind of a quicker version. We do have some deeper dives, so I’d say check out our programs with the Small Business Centers or some of these other ones. Again, you do have the recording and the handouts available for people that want to digest. But we hope that people, in an hour, there’s only so much you can accomplish. But asking, learning to ask the right questions, I feel like that, if someone had taught me, early in my career, to ask the right questions, I would’ve saved myself a lot of time. And maybe you can’t get all the answers in the program but, if you know the questions to ask, then you can find the people or the resources that are qualified to provide those answers. And you should be able to find a lot of these answers on our YouTube channel, in our free articles, and our free workshops coming up. But if not, you can always reach out and schedule a strategy call. Or if it’s something we don’t do, we have a network of consultants and community resources and small business centers that we are always happy to refer to as well.

Steven: Cool, cool. Well, why don’t we do one or two questions? I know we’re a little over but a few people here, Marie, and you’ve been doing this a long time, what’s changed since COVID, since the pandemic? You know, if you had given this presentation in 2019, you know, what would’ve been different or what have you seen over the last, you know, couple years or so that’s changed here?

Marie: The number one trend, and I don’t have the numbers in front of me but Mandy just taught this webinar through our 2021 development series, it’s on our website. She had just pages of statistics on the incredible impact of direct mail this year. We’re seeing a lot more response and positive fundraising coming through direct mail. People are Zoomed out, they’re electronically fatigued, and to get something in the mail that looks like a letter with impact reports and stories that is engaging, we are seeing . . . you know, at the national level, statistics are showing the impact reports and things sent through direct mail are seeing greater return on investment. So I would say really don’t ignore those donor-acquisition mailings. You might have a small website or you might have a small reach in your community that you can acquire a donor list for $750 that’s, you know, 5,000 potential contacts that you can screen and try to filter for people who would be interested in your work. And, you know, we work with groups to look at those donor-acquisition and direct-mail stuff. So I think sending your impact reports out in user-friendly ways by mail is . . . you know, make it like a letter, send it out.

Someone says, “How long should an impact report be?” Again, that depends on who you’re sending it to and how it’s going to be distributed. One-page appeals are kind of becoming a thing of the past. We’re seeing statistically that, if it’s an appeal with impact data, that two, three, four pages are doing quite well statistically when going out through direct mail.

Steven: Yeah, I’d echo that. We’ve seen direct mail rates have been really successful I think because a lot of people are moving away from it. I mean my inbox, just personally, very rare. And then, when I get one, it definitely stands out. So I love, love that tip, especially for year end. Dang, Marie, this was really good. I hope folks will visit your website,, check you all out. You’re welcome back anytime. Thanks for doing this, Marie.

Marie: Well, my pleasure. And, if you want to send me the questions, I see that we had a couple here about examples, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to, you know, pop an email back. I will be out of the office tomorrow, but I’m happy to . . . you know, we have five or six questions in the Q&A, pop me those and we should get the information from those participants and be able to pop them and reply to those questions.

Steven: Cool, that’s awesome. Yeah, I really appreciate all of you hanging out. I know we’re a little bit over, but good information for sure. So thanks to you all who tuned in. We are going to send out the recording and the slides here later on this afternoon. So be on the lookout for those.

And I hope you all join us for our next webinar. We got just a few more Thursdays left in the year but we’re going to try to make the most of them for sure. Let me pull up my slides here for next week session. Same time, same place, next Thursday we’re going to be talking about some five must do’s for year-end fundraising success. It’s not too late to get going. Our buddy Lori Jacobwith is going to join us 4 p.m. Eastern. So one week and one hour from right now. Join us, not too late to get your year-end stuff out the door. Register. Even if you cannot attend, you’ll get the recording. Even if you don’t attend live, no problem. So, hopefully, we’ll see you on that webinar or some future webinar that we do here at Bloomerang.

But we’ll call it a day there. Like I said, look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. And, hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session. So have a good rest of your day, have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.