To raise more money, do something you hate.

What motivates donors to give to charity? US respondents were more motivated by a change in their financial situation. 21% said they were motivated by a personal circumstance with either themselves or a loved one having been affected by the cause the organization supported. 16% said they were inspired to sponsor a friend or colleague participating in an event. UK and Australian respondents were more likely to be driven by an innate desire to help.

Interesting, yes? You can find more at

But you see, this TIP isn’t about today’s new findings to boost fundraising.

It’s about better measurement, and better reporting. Which, by the way, leads back to much stronger fundraising—if only we were willing to invest more time and effort to it.

Notice how often we are attracted to “the shiny object,” the ideas and approaches that will make it easier for us to raise more money now. But when the topic turns to evaluation and reporting, many of us glaze over, or even tune out. It’s hard work. It’s tedious. We avoid it, postpone it, and end up doing it badly.

So in spite of the fact that you’d really rather spend time targeting donors today than investing in stronger measurement tomorrow, here are some considerations to improve your reporting.

1.  Jazz lovers revere the 1969 Les McCann and Eddie Harris classic, “Compared to what?” With data, the three rules of thumb are context, context, and context. If you provide a single fact (“We counseled 200 families last year”), it means next to nothing by itself, even as a simple measure of output. Is this a lot? How does it compare to 2011? What was your goal? What are you expecting to do in 2013?

2.  After you’ve got that fact of yours based in context, remember that the critical meaning of your work may still be unclear. You’ve heard it over and over–the single greatest failure of nonprofits in reporting is in sustainable outcomes. Context: “In 2011, 85 workers completed our eight-week skills assessment and resume-writing class, an increase of 30% over the previous year.” Context and impact: “We followed this class through their employment experiences in 2012 and found that by February 2013, 79 continued to be employed full-time in a job they had held for at least six months.” And that’s really just the beginning.

3.  Try not to lose sight of the true purpose of evaluation: to improve. (Ah, and here all this time you were thinking the goal of all this pesky reporting was to continue to receive grant money.)

4.  Contrary to the old song, “Accentuate . . . the positive,” the best reporting is not just about finding what you have to brag about, but also finding a better way to identify and address your challenges more effectively. Your stakeholders likely know where your weaknesses are, so include in your report the steps you are taking on a path of continuous improvement.

5.  Incorporate surveying, so that the perspective is not merely what you think you’ve accomplished, but how others view you. Survey could be of clients; a survey could be of last year’s donors. This approach brings the likely positive spin of a testimonial but also can “make it real” (there’s Les McCann again) with demonstrating a more balanced point of view.  In 12 months you can replicate the survey process again and see where you are shifting. Consider that a three-question survey might just be the ticket; never pose more than 20 questions in a single session.

6.  One way to reduce the dread of measurement work is to make it useful beyond just a grant report you’re working on. Great measurement data is wonderful to weave into your next speech in the community, your upcoming board orientation, your next staff training, and cool media messaging.

7.  Simplify and illustrate. We’ve urged you in other Rich TIPS to consider developing better infographics. Check out the presentation of data in an amazingly graphic way that GuideStar has at Over on the right, this graphic begins with the “bookshelf” and reads downward. Look at both content—related to donor behavior—as well as the imaging and color. It’s a great way to present survey results (in this case, from GuideStar and Hope Consulting as part of their Money for Good II research). Think how this approach would add impact to your next Powerpoint® presentation!

8.  For another clean graphic blending of both program data and financial data, check out the “Re-Imagining Reporting” project announced by Ned Breslin of Water For People at

9.  The best day to start your evaluation process for the future is today. What could your team be capturing now that will make your reporting stronger? What’s the missing link that will move your organization from counting outputs to really defining long-term outcome?

10.  See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Reward yourself for spending a few minutes thinking about on measurement. Go have a coffee, take a walk, stretch a little. Then you can come back and find another cool web site on social media and fundraising. (There are a lot of them.)

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