Someone Else Implementing a Brilliant Idea

By Jessamyn Lau

A few weeks ago I wrote about VisionSpring’s funder reporting process. The week after the post went up I received an email from a manager at an organisation that was just about to make a similar shift. They wanted to movefrom reporting individually to each of their funders -according to the reporting frameworks each of those funders required, to creating one dashboard of the organisation’s own metrics, inviting all their funders to take part in one reporting discussion. For more on the process see my previous post.

We realise that this is not a small decision, and a scary leap to take. I asked the org if they would mind sharing this journey, their motivation, trepidation, hurdles and hopefully success. Here is part one, as they begin this transition:

“As a small nonprofit, we often feel like we are beholden to the whims and vagaries of our funders and partners. This usually means that we conform to their reporting schedules and geographic and programmatic preferences, but oftentimes it signals a positive, and leads us to new opportunities, or affords us the chance to look at our work from a different, but equally meaningful, perspective. We are pleased to have been able to work with outside experts in monitoring and evaluating our programs, but in all honesty can also feel a little schizophrenic when working with some funders who exact strict and demanding reporting of us, while others sign over grant monies without so much as a follow-up email.

We decided, as an experiment, to take matters into our own hands (inspired in part by the Peery Foundation blog post on nonprofits’ self-reporting activities): in addition to the donor-mandated reporting for one of our larger programs, we developed a presentation that we plan on updating quarterly, sharing with all of the supporters - both financial and otherwise - of the program. In fact, we plan on opening it up to anyone interested in our work, and will hold quarterly conference calls in which we review the presentation, answer questions and - most importantly - respond to many queries all at once. This will mean a tremendous time saver for us, and hopefully will instill confidence in our network of supporters, both in our ability to do our work well and in our belief in evaluating ourselves on an ongoing basis. We’ll see how it goes…”

I’ll be checking in with them again in a couple of months to see what pleasant or challenging surprises this process brings.

We’d love to hear from you if you’re in a similar position. What difficulties are you facing? What benefits are you reaping?