Charities put a lot of time and effort into winning a grant, but for some, once the money is in the bank, they forget an important key stage: reporting to funders. Others produce perfunctory reports which do not bring their work to life, and do not convey the positive impact the grant has had on both the organisation and its beneficiaries.
Instead, reporting to funders should be a crucial part of your fundraising cycle. Keeping funders engaged with your work through interesting and appealing reports significantly increases the chances that a funder will support you again in the future.
Each time you receive a grant make a note of any reporting requirements, including any dates, so you don’t miss any through the year. Reports can take different forms, some funders provide a form for you to fill in whilst others ask you to write a short freeform report instead. How many reports a grantee must submit also varies from one funder to another. Some funders may ask for six-monthly reports throughout the life of the grant, whilst others only want a final report once the grant ends. Even if the funder doesn’t ask for a report it is good practice to send a brief report 12 months after receiving the grant.
Whatever the format or frequency, when drafting a report:
- Read through your original application and check what you said you were going to do, and report against this.
- Make sure reports are accurate, on time and fulfilling any criteria set by the funder.
- Tell them your good news – not only the facts and figures but also some case studies, quotes from beneficiaries and photos.
- Be honest – if things haven’t gone to plan tell the funder, and explain why. Don’t panic if this is the case – most funders understand that projects in reality can differ from original plans.
- Look through your financial records and prepare a summary of how you spent the grant money. Again if this differs from the original budget you will need to give an explanation.
- Tell them about any lessons you have learnt, good or bad, from running the project. Both you and your funder can then share this learning with others who want to run similar projects in the future.
- Let them know your plans for the future of the project they are funding (after all they may be interested in funding these plans!). If your grant is coming to an end, outline your plans for sustaining the project, which can help to convince them to renew the grant.
- Most importantly, say thank you! Their support has made the work you are doing possible.
In the final year of a grant, as well as thinking about any reports, you should consider if and when you could re-apply to the funder. Many funders will specify when you can reapply, with some expecting a gap between the end of a grant and a new application. If funders do not specify, talk to them about when you can reapply, and whether you can do so before your grant comes to an end to avoid any gaps in funding. For smaller funders who do not ask for reports, it is a good idea to re-apply the month following the submission of your final report, when you will be fresh in their minds.
If you would like some support from Bright Ideas to successfully report and engage with your key funders, please get in contact.