The Key to Empowering Nonprofit Board Members with Compelling Information at the End of the Year: Board Reports

By Maureen Coleman

As we approach the end of 2020, many of us are eager to “turn the page” on an obviously challenging year, and look forward to a fresh start. And yet, for the nonprofit sector in particular, this is a crucial time when leadership must focus on the present moment. As is the case in any other “normal” year, the holidays present fundraising opportunities, but this year, taking advantage of these opportunities is even more crucial for many nonprofits who have not been able to rely on traditional fundraising avenues (galas, in person events, etc.). Unique to 2020 also, is that this time will necessitate reflection and strategic planning, as many nonprofits confront the realities of this year - limited fundraising channels and budget cuts as the demand for services rises - and how they will continue to serve their communities in spite of these challenges. With this in mind, for many nonprofit staff, leadership, and board members, it will be “all hands on deck” and require a lot of collaboration for the remaining weeks this year.

 

To ensure that everyone is on the same page and armed with the data they need to help, nonprofit leadership should work to communicate transparently with board members and provide detailed information in the form of board reports. With the right reports that include powerful stories and compelling data dashboards, nonprofit leaders can keep donors up to date and deepen their engagement.  As a board member for a local nonprofit in the Bay Area myself, I am committed to doing whatever I can to help my organization and I have been grateful to the organization’s leadership for providing me with the information I need to be as impactful as possible. Here is a list of reports nonprofit leadership should assemble and share with their board members to close out the year:

 

    1. Operational Insights
      Provide board members with a summary of where the organization is at this moment across every department of the organization, as it relates to the impact of COVID-19, on their operations. In addition, it is important to provide historical information so that the board understands where the organization stands in relation to where they have been. This will allow all of the organization’s stakeholders to be on the same page and inform tough decisions and the kind of strategic planning that is necessary to plan for 2021.
    2. Programmatic impact & trend analysis
      The transformative work and essential services provided by nonprofits are arguably more important this year than ever before. Share progress towards goals and metrics for success as it relates to the organization’s impact framework. This information will be even more powerful as the board reflects on the many challenges the organization has faced, and the pivots that have been required to continue their important work. With programmatic impact metrics, board members will understand the impactful work that is being done and allow them to communicate the impact of the organization succinctly with potential donors.
    3. Curated impact stories
      Even though the numbers are important, they don’t tell the whole story. Reminding board members of the organization's significance through highlighting stories from work in the field will deepen their commitment to the cause and arm them with powerful anecdotes to facilitate fundraising. There is nothing that makes me feel more connected to my organization than hearing about one participant's experience, and how her involvement in our program made a difference in her life. Be sure to share these heartwarming and impactful stories with board members and encourage them to spread the word!
    4. Key issue area data
      Board members need to be equipped to speak in detail about the issue area that the organization is tackling. Reflecting on my own experience, it has been important for me to be able to speak to education more generally to help people understand why our organization is so important. Leveraging research and publicly available data to help board members tell the whole story is important and can make a significant impact for board members' capacity to fundraise going forward.

 

Nonprofits must use every tool in their toolbox in order to weather this storm. The right board reports will empower board members to be an extension of the fundraising team and strengthen the organization going into the new year.


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