Fundraising Reports: Deliver and Delight Your Board, Leadership and Development DepartmentFeb 04, 2023
You know how important your fundraising reports are. They tell the story of your donor’s behavior and how your fundraising efforts are faring. Once they are released, assumptions are made, and your audiences are going to react to exactly what was given to them. That’s why producing the right reports for the right audiences is super important.
Fundraising Reports No-No's
Before we go into how to do things right, let’s look at how most nonprofits go wrong. There are three big issues. First is that too much information is provided. This causes your audiences to go into analysis paralysis and they don’t know what to react to or how they can help you. You have four audiences for reports, which we’ll get into in a minute, and each of those audiences need their own insights into fundraising. A one-size-fits-all report will not work.
The second issue is that data isn’t put into perspective. Without trend data, the reader doesn’t know if the data is good or bad. Let’s say that your report says you have 1,200 donors. That’s great but how does that compare to the same time frame last year? Or how does that compare to what your goal is? The trend data is critical.
The third issue is that the reports are too hard to read or overly complex – they don’t have the right data visualization. Your audiences shouldn’t need a PhD to interpret your fundraising reports. Essentially, provide the right amount of data to the right audiences, put it into perspective with trend data, and make it easy to interpret and understand.
The Audiences for Your Fundraising Reports
Let’s talk about how you can rock your fundraising reports. The best thing you can do is understand your four audiences and provide actionable information for each audience. Let’s start with your board. Your board needs to understand the organization’s philanthropic landscape, engage in your fundraising efforts, and assist you in the best way that they know how. Your board are not full-time fundraisers, and they don’t speak the ins and outs of fundraising. They need high-level visibility and do not need the details of every mailing, appeal or fundraising effort.
The next audience is your Leadership. This could be your CEO, C-Suite, or your Chief Development Officer. This group needs to understand the landscape and how its changing, but these are your strategists. This group needs to manage and help you strategize. They need to know where revenue is coming from, what’s working and what’s not, and be able to manage appropriately.
The third audience is the development department. These are your boots on the ground fundraisers who need the ability to course correct when things aren’t going well. This is the audience that is detail-oriented and needs to know how their specific efforts and programs are faring. This includes where they are to budget so they can make changes in tactics before the end of the fiscal year.
The final audience is finance. They need to reconcile and understand receivables. They need a gift listing of all cash and pledge payments, revenue by fund, pledge payments made, any adjustments or write offs, and new pledges. We won’t spend a lot of time on them in this blog, as the other audiences are typically the reports that need the most correcting.
Content for your Fundraising Reports
Now that we know our audiences, let’s talk about the content for each of the audiences. The key is to produce the right amount of data in an easy-to-read format or visual. Your board needs to understand the landscape and how it’s changing, plug in where they know how to, and assist you in meeting your goals. On a monthly basis, they need to receive:
- Total raised by constituency group
- Total raised by channel category
- Number of donors
- Actual to Budget
On an annual basis, they need to be provided:
- Cost to Raise $1
- Return on Investment
- Retention rate by constituency and gift level
- Snapshot of Giving
Let’s switch gears to your leadership group. This group needs to understand the landscape, manage the team, and help you strategize. On a monthly basis, this group should receive:
- Total raised by constituency group and designation
- Number of donors
- Actual to budget
- Commitments by Designation, Size, and Donor Type
- KPIs for all personnel in the development department
On an annual basis, leadership and the development department should receive a presentation that shows how the previous fiscal year performed. I like to call everyone together and present so that everyone hears and sees the same presentation, and they hear what questions get asked and answered. This presentation should include:
- Year-over-year total giving
- Donor pool changes
- Giving by constituency
- Gift distribution
- Maps of where you donors live
Our third audience is our development department. These are more complex reports because this group needs to understand all the ins and outs of how different fundraising tactics are shaping up. They should receive everything that leadership and the board received, but with these additions monthly:
- Total raised by giving effort
- Acquisition and recovered donor analysis
- Median and average gift by constituency group
- Deep dive into any giving societies
The last thing I want to leave you with is that these reports should all be automated. I care about your sanity and although we’ve listed a lot of different reports, all of these should take no more than one hour to produce for all three audiences. That's if you have a clean database! Finance is a different story so let’s put them to the side. Your board, leadership and department reports shouldn’t be herculean or eat a ton of your time. Take the time to build them out, then automate them. It’s a one-and-done item that you can use every month without rebuilding from scratch.
Remember to tailor your reports to your audience, provide trend data so that data is put into perspective, build easy-to read reports with visuals, and make every piece of information you provide actionable.