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Feeling Lucky: Tips to Finally Getting Those Narrative Reports

By Sarah Sims

When it comes to endowment reporting, impact reporting, or general impact storytelling, we can often feel very “unlucky” when it comes to our ability to actually get our organizational partners and fund beneficiaries to participate in the stewardship process. We ask, we send emails, we cajole, ask nicely, we make calls, we ask again, ask firmly, we generally become professional nags. It’s draining on our time, resources, and our professional morale. Ultimately we often get a sub-par product for our donors as well.

But, the good news is, we can turn our luck around with a few key changes to our approach and messaging. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors in our success in this space:

  • Incorporate technology: gone are the days of editable PDFs and hundreds of individual Word documents, and reports submitted in all shapes and styles. Faculty, staff, and students live 24/7 on technology these days and we have to meet them in this space. Make your narrative or fund utilization report requests through a technology platform that allows the beneficiary to submit their information via on online form. (This includes thank you notes!) If you don’t have a tool available through your database, there are many free and simple online tools such as Formstack, JotForm, Google Forms, and Survey Monkey!

  • Tier narrative report recipients: we don’t have the resources to implement individual fund level (customized) utilization reporting for every donor, so apply tiering to who gets what type of narrative report (there are three major types of impact reports you can provide your donors with varying in degrees of specificity). By reducing the sheer quantity of reports your team has to track down, you not only reduce time and energy spent, you free up resources to focus on enhancing the quality and depth of those you do gather. It’s all about quality vs. quantity!

  • Educate your beneficiaries on WHY this is important – don’t just show up once a year asking for information! Take the time to provide context, explain who they are writing to, provide an example of a well-written report or thank you letter, and report the results back to them when the reporting is complete. We need to steward our internal partnerships just as much as our external relationships. We can do this through post-initiative reporting, surveying internal partners, sharing results and donor feedback, and more. Never overlook the power of building a culture of philanthropy from the inside out!

Want to learn more on this specific topic and explore examples of these principals put into real life practice? In the brand new DRG Endowment Reporting Course, we have sessions dedicated specifically to narrative gathering as well as tiering your reports where we take a deep dive into both the strategy and tactics of these concepts. We’d love to assist you in tackling this often “unlucky” task and instead make it your four leaf clover.


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