A Guide to Impact Reporting for Churches or Non-Profit Organizations
Effective giving strategies should include creation of an impact report, a tool used to communicate your story to funders and other stakeholders. An impact report is more than an activity report, more than an annual report. Impact is the results that flow from the work that you do, and impact reports share data-driven stories that highlight the difference your church or non-profit makes. Impact reporting also allows you and others to learn from your work, and impact reporting promotes accountability and transparency. But many churches and charitable organizations struggle with the report creation. This guide will help you Get started today.on producing more engaging impact reports to share with current and potential donors.
Know Your Audience
Start by identifying your audience. What do they need to know about your work in order to understand and appreciate the impact? Donors want to know their donations contributed to positive outcomes. Potential donors want to see how their money will be used by the organization. Trustees might need to know which programs are working and which are not. Program staff and volunteers need a reminder that their efforts do matter.
Several surveys of donors about the reasons they do and do not give consistently report similar findings. The majority of reasons relate to communications about impact. They want to know who has been helped by their donations. They want to feel like the organization is effective in trying to fulfill its mission. An impact report satisfies these wishes, motivating more giving.
Measure Your Outcomes
Your impact report must do more than describe your programs and activities, more than state the goals and intended outcomes. You need data to support your claims and demonstrate whether you are actually reaching those goals. For example, Stevens Creek Church relates that: “Adopt-A-Block is at the heart of the Dream Center. The first Saturday of every month volunteers reach out to the people who live in the neighborhoods near the Dream Center.
In an effort to serve our city, volunteers clean up the streets, clean homes, visit the elderly, clean yards, etc. The overarching goal of adopt-a-block is to build relationships with people in the community, show them the love of Jesus Christ, and to encourage them.” Examples of data that might be collected to help show impact include: number of volunteers each month, number of blocks cleaned, number of community members personally outreached to,number of those members who subsequently attended a church service.
When collecting data, focus on simple questions and data that can be more easily analyzed. Quantitative data, which deals with numbers and standardized responses, might include attendance numbers, new volunteers and retention, feedback on services, or short-term outcomes. Obtaining qualitative data might include gathering participants’ stories, collecting feedback on people’s experiences, and tracking long-term outcomes.
Show Your Impact
Show your impact with meaningful data. Don’t just ramble off outcomes; choose metrics that illustrate the difference you made. Don’t simply report the activities that you accomplished; share the difference those activities made. It is not enough to just explain what your program does. Rather than noting that your organization served 100 people, demonstrate your program increased number of community members served by 10 percent.
Humans are very visual creatures. More than 90 percent of people prefer to engage with visual content instead of text-based media. Your impact report shouldn’t be paragraphs and paragraphs of text or tables of numbers. Incorporate data visualizations wherever possible. Data visualizations, like infographics and timelines, condense your message and impact into a visual format that is easier to understand.
When creating visualizations for inclusion in your report, avoid these pitfalls:
- Too much color and visual clutter
- Use of a large “other” category
- Pie charts with too many items and too much detail
- Misleading charts
- Not defining data labels
People relate more to other people than to pure numbers. Humanize your results by sharing personal anecdotes. Show some of the stories behind the numbers. For example, let’s say you report your Dream Center Diner program provides free hot meals to the community every week. First, you’d want to quantify this activity (the Diner served meals to 300 families last year) and then relay the impact this made (the Diner provided 20 percent meals than the prior year). Then reinforce the impact this made by including one of those family’s story about what the hot meal meant to them, how their children didn’t go hungry because of the program, etc. Personal stories help readers connect your activities to real results.
Recognize Challenges and Shortcomings
Though you are trying to present a positive narrative, remain transparent and honest. Acknowledge program failings that you need to correct. Admit to goals that you failed to reached. Point out problems, and then point toward solutions. Do you need to direct more funding toward an activity? Does your staff require more training to better meet goals? Did you misunderstand the community’s needs? Demonstrate you have learned from the failures.
Putting It All Together
Your impact report should include the following elements:
- Need: What problem are you trying to address?
- Activities: What is your organization doing to address this problem?
- Outcomes: What results came from these activities?
- Evidence: What lets you know that you have made a difference?
- Self-Evaluation: What lessons have you learned, and what will you do to change your work for the better?
Read through your report, proofreading for spelling, grammar, and formatting issues, and ensuring that your narrative is clear and compelling. Have others review the report as well before finalizing.
Once you finalize your report, your impact report is ready for the most important step: share!
Impact Reporting is Only One Step!
While impact reporting is an important step for churches and nonprofits, it’s only one step. To succeed, you must excel in various areas. Schedule a Discovery Call with the experts at DonorWerx today to learn how.