Quarterly, biannual, or annual, nonprofits don’t look forward to preparing program progress reports. Winning awards is exciting, but to most nonprofits reporting is necessary drudgery that they approach with the enthusiasm of a dragooned window-washer.
“Progress reports are actually a built-in opportunity to further engage the funder and lay the groundwork for ongoing grants,” said Barbara Floersch, grants expert and author of You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change. “There’s no better way to build an ongoing relationship with a grantmaker than to hook them with hard-hitting, documented evidence that their investment is paying off.”
Floersch offers the following tips to use progress reports to the fullest advantage:
Be on Time: Late reports say your organization doesn’t prioritize keeping the funder informed. Being late doesn’t indicate you’re too busy. It indicates you don’t care.
Be Honest: The funder has invested valuable and limited resources to help your organization do important work. You are partners. Grantmakers don’t want a snow job. They want factual information about what’s working and what’s not. And if something is not going as planned, they want to know how you’re addressing the problem to get things back on track.
Be Thorough: If the funder provides a format for the report, be sure to address each question in depth. Use the original grant proposal to structure the report if there is no format. Describe the population the program is serving, what service is being delivered, how much service is being delivered, whether data show you on track to achieve the intended results, and whether the effort is effectively addressing the issue you’re concerned about.
Be Personal: Provide quotes, brief stories, or case studies that paint a picture of how the program is making a difference in people’s lives. Engage grantmakers and help them feel good about what they are supporting. Be sure to honor the confidentiality of those you serve and to get permission if you use names or photographs.
Be Welcoming: Use a cover letter to invite the funder for a site visit, or to an upcoming event. Welcome funders into your organization’s family and encourage them to feel at home there.
When you seize reporting as an opportunity for relationship building, you position your organization to request additional support in the future.