Creating Effective Impact Reports
Ask someone to explain the role of stewardship in annual giving and they might tell you about the acknowledgment letters they produce, the donor rosters they publish, and the plaques that hang in their institution’s hallways. While these are all important aspects of stewardship, they’re secondary to the task to showing donors how their gifts have made a difference.
One of the challenges in annual giving, however, is that you can’t always tell a donor exactly how their donation was spent. While major gifts typically go to support a very specific need, annual gifts are often pooled together and distributed where an institution’s leadership thinks support is needed most. But even though you can’t show a $50 annual fund donor exactly how that money was used, you can help them to understand the kind of collective impact that results from annual giving. Telling stories can, even in a general way, let annual donors know that their past gifts are making a difference.
Recognizing the importance of this, Boston College’s annual giving program produces impact reports. These online reports are filled with pictures, videos, and stories about the impact of annual giving on the lives of students and faculty. Donors are sent emails letting them know that the reports are available.
Donors also receive quarterly impact report emails, which come from an individual student or faculty member who has benefited directly from annual giving. They include compelling stories and specific examples of how donor support has made a difference in their lives. The impact reports and emails are coordinated as part of the university’s donor loyalty program known as The Neenan Society, since both are considered a core element of the annual fund’s stewardship and donor retention efforts.
In the first year after launching their impact reports, Boston College saw an increase in their donor retention rate. But that’s not the only way they knew their efforts were effective. The annual fund staff also received heartfelt emails back from donors telling them how much they enjoyed received the reports.
One of the fundraising’s best kept secret’s is this: It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money does that matters most. That is especially true in annual giving. So, make a point of talking to your institution’s students and faculty as well as others in your community who are the beneficiaries of annual support. Listen to their stories, collect them, and (most importantly) share them with the donors who made those stories possible.
This article has been adapted from the book Ideas for Annual Giving by Dan Allenby. Copyright (c) 2016 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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