Special thanks to Gina Parente and Brandeis International Business School for sharing their team's brilliant work and the process behind it.
In 2019, the Development team at Brandeis International Business School decided to take a more innovative approach to their annual report. They wanted to highlight the impact of philanthropy and recognize the business school's donors—but they wanted this report to be different.
They wanted to create something more bold, fresh, modern, and interactive than the individual print reports of the past. Rather than a static donor list, this new "Donor Impact Report" would focus on storytelling and sharing impact.
This Donor Impact Report connects the student experience with the support of donors and alumni across the globe. In 2020, the report was designed to be a bright spot amidst an otherwise difficult year—showcasing the work of students, alumni, staff, and faculty from around the world that was made possible by the school's donors.
We knew these reports would inspire you (and maybe even trigger a bit of envy), so we asked Gina Parente, the Associate Director of Development & Alumni Relations at Brandeis International Business School, to share more about how this project came to be.
Planning and Preparation:
Identify internal partners and the roles of each team. You'll need a project manager, a team to collect data, tell stories, gather photos and videos, create graphics, build the web page; the list goes on for a project like this. It's essential to identify who you'll need to work with and what each person's role will be early in the project. At Brandeis International Business School, the Marketing and Communications team took the lead on researching and writing articles, with input from the Development and Alumni Relations team on donor-supported projects. The Development and Alumni Relations team gathered impact data to share as infographics—like a map with locations of all donors, number of scholarships given, number of volunteer hours donated, and other data points. The Senior Associate Director of Communications served as the project manager.
Choose a theme. Identifying a theme will help you choose which stories to feature in the report. With a global pandemic in 2020, the Business School featured positive stories and data from across the business school community. Some of the stories highlighted what their community was doing during this difficult time, while others sought to remind donors and alumni that the business school was making dreams come true.
Choose a format for the stories. Your format will help you determine how to tell these stories. In 2020, the Business School used text-based stories and infographics. In 2021, they decided to focus their efforts on producing high-quality, short videos instead.
Create a timeline. To craft a beautiful, interactive report like this, you'll need to make (and stick to) a timeline. A project like this is a year-long, multi-team effort. Here is what the timeline looks like at Brandeis International Business School:
November - May: Bi-weekly, joint team meetings to brainstorm potential report themes, layout, and other formatting details.
June - August: Collect year-end giving and engagement data and finalize content acquisition and production.
August: Rough draft is ready for the Marketing team. They develop a platform using Shorthand to provide a rich, inviting, and immersive user experience for visitors.
September: Continue to meet as needed to address any questions or issues.
October: Testing, sharing, proofreading, and gathering feedback from internal leadership.
November: Email launch and printed postcard with QR code sent to fiscal year donors and all alumni and friends.
Results Digital reports allow you to track engagement and important metrics like how much time donors spend with the report and which stories resonate the most. The Business School's digital impact report was very well received in its first year. Launch emails were segmented into two groups—donors and non-donor alumni and friends. Some key metrics include:
3:30 - 5 minute page views per user
50% open rate and 39% click rate for donors
18% open rate and 7% click rate for non-donors
Positive feedback from donors and Board members
In 2021, the team at the Business School worked to create a more strategic communications plan for their report, including:
A more donor-centric, drip-style campaign
A series of weekly emails featuring a specific story from the Donor Impact Report
Using tracking to remove anyone that clicked on an article in a previous report-related email
A final "Thanksgiving" email featuring links to all the videos, articles, and donor honor roll as a thank you to donors
Non-donors received a simple holiday message with the videos and articles as features highlighting the great activities at the business school.
Their more strategic approach paid off! Unique open rates for donors rose to 56%, and click rates increased to 44%.
Thinking about creating a digital impact report at your organization? Gina says, "Do it! Your donors will appreciate an interactive webpage that is easy to access and tells the stories of your institution. This project is evergreen in that it provides individual and aggregate content that you can point to frequently as evidence of the work your school is doing and why donor support is critical."
Kudos to the team at Brandeis International Business School, and thanks again for sharing your work with us! If you have questions or comments about creating a digital impact report, drop them in the comments below!